USA Today, The Des Moines Register and The Iowa City Press-Citizen are newspapers that most iowans are familiar with. These papers are also some of the big names for newspaper industry Gannett. USA Today is fairly well-known as the Gannett flagship national newspaper. Those who traveled for business in the 80s and 90s usually woke up to a USA Today at their motel room door courtesy of the motel.
Gannett is, in many large cities these days, the local paper. Names like the Detroit Free-Press, The Arizona Republic, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Indianapolis Star, the Louisville Courier Journal along with hundreds of properties in medium sized cities such as Sioux Falls, SD and Lansing Michigan.
The other party in this merger, GateHouse, has properties that range in the smaller town category but also includes hundreds of properties. In Iowa GateHouse is represented by the Burlington Hawkeye and the Ames Tribune. GateHouse also publishes many weekly small town papers.
One of the goals of the writers of the constitution was to have many voices speaking out on issues. Thus one of the most powerful tools during our revolution and the formative years of the early republic was the printing press in the backroom. Unfortunately, news is a business. Over the years competition in the news business would usually lead to consolidation and fewer voices in the local markets.
As radio and TV entered the news business, markets became larger and the players became fewer. In many cities there was a dominant newspaper that was also the owner of the big local radio station and a TV station. At one time the FCC held the line at one newspaper, one radio and one TV station. However, the FCC in recent years under Republican presidents have greatly relaxed those rules. Therefore one company can often now totally dominate one market.
For cities and towns that are served by Gannett and GateHouse, you can expect belt tightening to be the the order of the day. That will mean closing some of the smaller papers and slashing staff in most of the others. These are businesses after all and the competition now includes the internet where one site can reach millions easily.
CBS and Viacom:
That was last week. This week comes news that CBS and Viacom will be merging once again. As stated before, the writers of the constitution wanted many voices speaking out on issues. As more voices get silenced the fewer watchdogs on the government. The fewer watchdogs on the government the easier it is for a wannabe dictator to either intimidate the few voices that are left. Or with fewer voices, governments can more easily subsume them making them ineffective.
Net Neutrality Is still going away:
The one relief valve we once had was the neutral internet. As you know Ajit Pai, head of the FCC continues to work on ending net neutrality and making it yet another zombie media of corporations. When net neutrality is gone, so will be any chance that those of us who are a little contrary will have to set up get togethers and good old American protests.
This should be a major issue in the presidential campaign, but we hear little of it. Trumpublicans are all in favor of corporate mergers that lessen and weaken the voices in a democracy. I would hope that any candidate with a (D) behind their name will stand up for net neutrality.
Net neutrality has been dead for a year now. In that year few if any of the bad things we expected has taken place. I believe that there are still lawsuits being pressed to hopefully stop some of the expected abuses. But at some point those will be done and the corporations will be able to make their dreams and our nightmares come true.
Here is a good write up from a year ago that spells out many of the expected abuses. Scroll past the “updates” to the middle of the articles to review what the end of net neutrality may mean to us. It ain’t pretty, folks.