Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cut the Cord

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the White House to attend the State Visit of the French President. Actually, it was a kind of contest the White House Instagram feed offered to all of its 260,000 followers. And I LOST. But you might ask, what business does a high school social studies teacher have with meeting President François Hollande, anyhow?

Good point. But instead, please answer this question: what business does the chief lobbyist of Comcast, David Cohen, have with meeting the French President? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Comcast is about to buy Time-Warner cable? If this merger is approved, it would give Comcast, among many other advantages, "enormous power in negotiations with networks over licensing fees and in determining what shows reach consumers on mobile devices, laptops and television sets" as well as "flexibility to set the market rates" since it would be absorbing Time-Warner, its biggest cable competitor.

I wonder if the FCC and Department of Justice will approve the deal? Is there an emoticon for sarcasm?

L-R: Brian Roberts, President Obama, and Jim Kim
Consider the following:
Hmmm. A kind of "Media-Industrial Complex", no? I thought the USA was all about capitalism and competition: higher quality products/services and lower prices? Furthermore, this merger of Comcast and Time-Warner would literally shrink the number of voices in the media landscape and allow Comcast to control almost 40% of broadband internet market. Thoughts? How do we (or should we) "cut the cord" of influence between government and industry?

UPDATE: Here's a more eloquent critique featuring an interview with Harvard Professor Susan P. Crawford.

11 comments:

Griffin Powell said...

To the point of the First a family being great friends with Cohen and his wife, I'm not sure there's much anyone can do about that. But what I do find interesting is both the positions of Meredith Baker and Adam Wheeler. With Baker you see the classic switch from a government job into the private sector. Yet with Wheeler, and what I find interesting is his switch from the private sector to a government job. As both of this people are presumably pro-Comcast, Comcast is immediately given an edge over companies like TWC, an edge they should not posses due to jobs in the government.

William E. said...

I think what people need to do to understand the relationship between government and industry is to first become educated in who in our government has contributed to a private sector. I think that not only does the media, prison and military have its own "complex" but many other parts of life and jobs seem to be intertwined between government, lobbyists and private sector jobs.

Alex Wyse said...

Couldn't agree more with you, Mr. B! The information that the media gives the public controls their viewpoints. These people that you mentioned are basically buying power, forming their own oligarchy of sorts. I think we should have restrictions on lobbying and political contributions to stop this oligarchy from forming. Instead of the donations, we could have a central fund so that everyone running for a governmental position gets an equal amount of airtime and exposure. Right now we have so many people helping their friends out that it is a culture of corruption.

Shannon said...

I have been watching a lot of House of Cards lately and the one thing it has taught me, if anything, is that our government is not really built on the "people" anymore but rather is more of a complex network of lobbyists and power seekers and finding new ways to get money for what you want. That is why I think it would be so, so, difficult to try and separate government and industry because to have an industry you have to have money and support for that industry and for all that you need government.

Jack O said...

Shanon, you're so right! Our government is merely a puppet show for a much large, much more expensive venture. People, mainly large corperations and the lobbyists backing those corperations, have figured out a way to infiltrate our government to exploit its people and thus gain larger profit. I stand by capitolism, and limited government, however I also do not stand for monopolies, such like this one. Time Warner will be the first of these companys being bought out, and more will come. As soon as we have a Nation being controlled by one source of media we are doomed. The media industry complex is a very real thing, and it is up to our generation to stop.

Carolyn D. said...

Like Jack said, once we have a nation being controlled by a single source of media we are doomed. Americans draw so many conclusions from the media. Whether we know it or not the things that we see, and hear from our media sources almost entirely shape our opinions on our world, our country and even ourselves. As for the question posed in the post, how do we cut the cord of influence between government and industry? I think the answer is that there really is nothing we can do but understand that there is a political influence behind what we see.

Josh Sussman said...

I definitely agree with you, Carolyn. We should always view media critically because of the corporate and governmental ties that may influence what is being shown on TV. Like in the movie "Good Night and Good Luck," the controversial ALCOA Company sponsored CBS News because they were likely trying give their company a "clean" reputation, any media with corporate sponsorship should be viewed critically. In the case of Comcast, I think people must be aware that people in the government may allow something such as the merging of Comcast and TWC because of money connections (Cohen hosting a fundraising dinner for Obama is just one example).

Charlie B said...

I agree that the amount of power that Comcast will have in the media industry will be extreme and problematic especially because it is closely tied with the government, but it isn't as easy saying we should limit the government, or Comcast or both. While we don't want one single monopoly controlling the media, we live in a capitalist country, and to succeed you need to beat your competition. Comcast seems to have pretty much beaten their competition. To limit Comcast, you would need to limit everything else that applies to the capitalist ideal of competition to succeed. To do such a thing might help control these large monopolizing companies, but it also may create lots of roadblocks for small companies trying to gain some sort of hold in their specific industries.

Madi M said...

I agree with Carolyn and Jack in that Comcast is creating a monopoly and beating out the competition, just like many other companies are doing in other fields besides media as well. But in the field of media I think this is especially dangerous because American's are affected by media more than they would like to let on. Whoever controls the media can in some sense control the ideas that are circulated and the government is definitely controlled in part by these major monopolies. Because who is going to pay for these huge big budget campaigns? Just like we see with Obama and Comcast. This is a problem because it limits the diverse ideas in the media down drastically if Comcast owns 40% of what is broadcasted in media. We should limit these monopolies in some way with roadblocks like what Charlie was saying.

Callie Walsh said...

I definitely understand where Madi and many of my other classmates are coming from; however, I would like to throw some opposition in the mix and argue that Comcast IS NOT becoming a monopoly. While I acknowledge that the merger of Comcast and Time-Warner will vastly increase Comcast's cable market, I would like to point out that consumers will still have a plethora of other television programming options. For example, Satellite providers such as DirecTV and Dish Network have long been alternatives to cable. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, DSL has "31 million subscribers (compared to cable's 51.5 million)" . With a ratio of 3:5 between Americans who use satellite vs. Americans who subscribe to cable, I'd say that there is a decent amount of competition between television providers that will keep the ideas, genders, races, and messages we see in media from being monolithic or being used to propagate the governments desires. Also, newer Internet services such as Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime are becoming very popular, and provide consumers with yet another alternative to Comcast.

Forbes link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/02/27/ignore-paranoid-bloggers-the-comcast-time-warner-merger-is-good-for-consumers/

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