January 18, 2011

FREEDOM (OF THE PRESS) DIED A LITTLE MORE TODAY (AND I AM NOT SURPRISED)

The FCC today approved the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, enabling the creation of yet another semi-monopolised giant on the market. Only one (count, one) man opposed the merger, a Democratic FCC Commissioner named Michael Copps. One. The others - who scream murder when there is just the slightest hint of the word "fuck" or the exposure of a nipple (and a pierced black woman's nipple, at that!) - went all along with the merger. Republicans. Democrats. Corporatists, the lot of them, hearing only the loud cries of lobbyists that tell them "that our industry is in a horrible state, we need to consolidate, to grow, to consolidate that growth".

And now the freedom of information has died, just that little bit more.

Around the world, with the help of governments, the media giants are doubling down, and thus we only get the illusion of freedom, packaged and marketed. For the merger of hardware and infrastructure (Comcast) with content (NBC Universal) is bad on so many levels that it isn't even funny. And no, I am not talking about what that deal might mean for potential big corporate competitors, like Disney, although they are very likely looking at this merger with quite some trepidation.

Nor am I talking about the giant wave of shitty, cheap programming that will come towards you all, for know this, whenever a "merger" (in fact, it is a buy) like this happens, a lot of money gets sunk into it, so that kind of money has to be made back very fucking quickly. And just as it was the case with the Pro Sieben/Sat 1 buy in my country, you can count on one thing, and one thing only...

... that the pea counters will be looking at every thing very carefully. And know this, the news departments, already cut down to the barest bone, no longer filled with journalists but personalities (oh, fuck it, let's call it what they really are, they are media faces), they will look very bad on a balance sheet. News costs a lot of money, and when I say that, what I mean is real news, not the celebrity shit pie that gets served with whip cream every hour on the hour.

Nor is the talking (more like screaming) head phenomena that has grown inside the global media machinery like cancer over the past twenty years, replacing fact with opinion.

I am talking about the kind of news that will take a team of reporters, researchers and fact-checkers months to compile. News that is invaluable to you, the citizen. News, however, that most of you, have decided a long time ago was not worthy of your attention, instead debating whether the aforementioned black breast was real or fake.

These changes, these little deaths, they won't come overnight. They will take their time. They will cut here and there, and their reasoning will always be the same, "this is not cost effictive" and "not enough people care to watch this".

And no, this is not about "left" and "right". You may think it is, you may think that I am worried that "liberal news"  is in danger of becoming extinct, but the fact is that it doesn't matter what political slant is supposedly seen on your television. You like Keith Olberman? Good, but he is merely a figurehead, and most of his show consists of sports night analysis, with a known bias. He doesn't investigate. He doesn't report. Neither do the pinheads on the right. You know which ones I mean.

Investigations take time. They take manpower. They are done outside the spotlight, and we have a media system (and the people craving to be inside it) who are all about the spotlight.

And the new management, they will look at the few things that are still left, and they will say that this simply doesn't cut it. And they will make small cuts, some here, some there, who needs a researcher anyway, eh? Do we really need ten people working on a story that will fill only one hour's worth of airtime?

And it will die, little by little, step by step.

And yes, I know you will not believe me. Yes, I know, you will say that news has always been a survivor, that it will continue, and the people inside the system, they will scream and roar, how dare anybody say what is going to happen?

In Germany, the two "news channels" that are left, they have a news content quota of 37 percent and 35 percent respectively. The rest is filled with documentaries and, well, crap. And even the documentaries are on constant rotation. Trust me on this, if I see another documentary detailing the Third Reich, I will scream (or wait for Hitler's Dogs: The Final Documentary, whatever comes first).

In the United States, the shows are already exactly that: shows. There is no reporting on CNN, there is no analysis on Fox News, and MSNBC, well, regardless of the fact that I happen to agree with several things said by Olberman or Maddow, one must not be blinded by those things.

They don't report, either.

And this will only get worse. And the public discourse will get worse.

And no, I am not a conspiracy nut. There is no proper "evil" in play here, no meeting of shadow men who laugh loudly at the plight of normal people while they smoke cigars. Things don't work like that. I wish they did, because then you could find the appropriate villains and throw them in jail.

No, what is happening is a systematic breakdown. It is a system that has begun to eat itself, getting bloated on a corporate level while hollowing out those things that give such corporation a right to exist in the first place.

Get ready for your news to become even dumber than before.