June 2014

If a tree falls in the woods and NBC, ABC, and CBS aren’t there to cover the crash, does it make a sound?

It was very big news when the Federal Communications Commission announced plans on April 23 for new rules allowing wealthy producers of information, entertainment, opinion pieces, etc. to buy privileged access onto super-fast internet toll lanes. This meant that the core democratic principle of “net neutrality”–the idea that everyone, big or small, has an equal opportunity to put their material on the internet–was about to crash to the ground.

Axing this egalitarian principle has long been the goal of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and the few other monopolists that control the wires bringing internet service into our homes. A two-lane system would let these high-speed service providers collect big bucks from corporations wanting to rush their materials onto our screens ahead of everyone else, who’d be relegated to the traffic jam in the slow lane.

The FCC’s sudden willingness to turn our democratic internet into just another medium for plutocratic profiteers was a front-page story everywhere. Well, everywhere except on NBC, ABC, and CBS. Curiously, the big three TV networks made no mention on their nightly news shows of this momentous and outrageous power play. Nor did any of the three make a peep on May 15, when the FCC formally voted to propose the abandonment of net neutrality.

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Why be silent about such major news? Follow the money. NBC is owned by Comcast, which would reap a fortune by selling fast-lane access, so the conglomerate owner doesn’t want its TV news arm alerting the public or stirring up opposition to the FCC action. ABC is owned by Disney, which is eager to purchase preferential passage for all of its many internet offerings. Likewise. CBS owns “Showtime” and multiple sports networks that want to push their internet programming ahead of smaller competitors.

So, financial greed trumped journalistic ethics. By not even covering the attempt to destroy net neutrality, these conglomerates reveal what we can expect to get as “news” if they are allowed to buy dominant control of internet content.

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