Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Media control in play?

Not to be alarmist, but is there something to be concerned about when the Trump administration and its politically tinged Justice Department are suing to stop the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, the F.C.C. is looking for a full repeal of net neutrality, and the Koch brothers are becoming bidders for Time Inc., all in recent days.

Certainly Trump has expressed his disdain for the big merger already, but his rationale seems driven by his distaste for CNN.  It does not seem to be based on any rational understanding of the deal and the difference between vertical integration and horizontal integration when it relates to competition.  His view is narrow and personal.  There can be legitimate arguments on both sides of the merger but Trump's is solely based on a power play.  The F.C.C. move appears to put more power in the hands of the more conservatively based traditional telecom companies in order to dilute the power of the Silicon Valley liberals, or in Trump's mind elitists.  This is a complex issue but it is more important than many fully understand(including myself).  Again, it is an exhibition of the administration's direction that is minimally explained.  As for the Koch move on Time Inc, a company that is significantly diminished in its reach relative to the past, that too represents the potential for media control with a bias that is not disguised.  A diminished Time magazine still has resonance, and with the Koch's behind it there could be a revival.  Until recently the Murdoch ownership of the Wall Street Journal had not significantly reflected his influence. In the age of Trump, it is emboldened.  Adding the Koch's to an editorial outlet could be important, and that is not a positive observation.

All of the above together is not trivial.  Trump's attacks on the press throughout the campaign and extending into his Presidency are non-stop.  His appreciation of "freedom of the press" is almost non-existent.  Underestimating what could happen over time would be a mistake.  He may be a freak but he is real.


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