The Wavelength: Media Mega-Deals, Skyprosoft, AT&T/T-Mobile & More

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Here’s the latest Wavelength, the Media Consortium’s twice-monthly blog by Eric Arnold on media policy, media reform, and other media news. This issues looks at the Microsoft/Skype merger, the FCC’s revolving door from policy maker to corporate executive, Comcast’s (questionable) commitment to localism, and why we need to break up the telecommunications industry.

The Wavelength features stories from: Truthout, Mother Jones, The Nation, Public News Service, New York Community Media Alliance/New America Media, Inter Press Service and AlterNet

To read the full blog, including relevant hyperlinks, click here.

Another Day, Another Media Mega Deal

The latest? Microsoft is buying Skype, the Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion. Exactly what does the Skyprosoft deal mean for consumers? Net neutrality is a key component to the merger because, according to the Media Access Project’s Mark Wood, “without an open Internet, large and anticompetitive carriers like AT&T and Verizon will have the power to cripple potentially competitive services, such as Skype’s that will depend on access to existing networks.”

Should Telecoms Break Up?

AlterNet’s David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick make a case for the break-ups of the telecommunications trust, which provides “overpriced and inferior service, and [is] systematically overcharging the hapless American consumer.”

Citing crusading muckraker Ida Tarbell, who went after the Standard Oil monopoly a century ago, as an inspiration for the project, Rosen and Kushnick argue that the recent spate of mergers and acquisitions has put the telecom industry on a similar course of anti-competitive behavior. The answer, they say, is divestiture, which “will lead to increased competition, lower costs and better service.”

FCC’s Revolving Door Keeps on Spinning

Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Meredith Attwell Baker is the latest FCC official to land a cushy job at—you guessed it—a telecommunications company. Baker has resigned from the FCC and will start as Comcast’s senior vice-president for government affairs. As Truthout’s Nadia Prupis notes, Baker advocated strongly in favor of Comcast during the commission’s review of the $30 billion merger with NBC Universal earlier this year.

Senate Probe Focuses on Mobile Security

Truthout’s Prupis also reports that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is leading a Senate probe into privacy issues raised by smart phones and other mobile broadband-enabled devices.
Recent concerns over privacy issues have put companies like Google and Apple—whose officials testified Tuesday in Washington—on the hot seat.

Post-Merger, Comcast Lags on Localism

According to a recent study by Free Press, Comcast-owned Telemundo stations haven’t kept promises made to feature more local news – a key condition of the Comcast-NBC merger. While the study suggests that a poor commitment to localism for Telemundo stations was a pre-existing condition, dating back to NBC Universal’s 2002 purchase of the Spanish-language network, it also found that “Comcast has committed to increasing local news production in only six of the 15 communities served by its Telemundo owned-and-operated stations.” The report also found numerous discrepancies in Comcast’s FCC localism filings.

Revisiting Protest Music

Protest music has all but disappeared from the commercial music landscape, unless you count Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Yet, in an age of media consolidation and corporate-controlled media, it’s good to remember the music scene wasn’t always so timid. Recently, The Nation asked readers to list their Top Ten Protest Songs. They received an overwhelming response, with more than 3,000 entries, and even more streaming in daily.

As the editors note, “five seminal songs [vied] for consideration for the top slot: Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” Florence Reese’s “Which Side Are You On,” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” Go to the full “Wavelength” blog for the link to the full list.

World Press Freedom Day

“Press freedom is at its lowest level in 12 years,” according to Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery of Mother Jones. In honor of World Press Freedom Day, Bauerlein and Jeffery called attention to the 16 journalists currently held in Libya, as well as the two American journalists still detained in Iran (one of whom, Shane Bauer, is a MoJo reporter, who also contributed to New America Media).

Inter Press Service created a Facebook page to celebrate WPFD and compile reports on the state of freedom of the press from around the globe. It’s a fascinating list that outlines the dangers reporters face—which sometimes results in self-censorship—as well as the prevalence of censorship of political topics in other countries, especially those engaged in bloody civil conflicts. Here are a few choice stories:

* As Amantha Perera reports from Sri Lanka, one casualty of that country’s decades-long civil war (which ended in 2009) was journalistic independence. “The media became a part of the military operation… No one was able to report objectively, there was pressure on them from all parties.”

* In Egypt, Cam McGrath writes, the rebellion which toppled the Mubarak government has brought significant changes for reporters. “Before Feb. 11, we had strict orders not to discuss certain topics, such as the Muslim Brotherhood or (Mubarak’s political opponent) Mohamed El Baradei,” says Ashraf El-Leithy, deputy editor of Middle East News Agency (MENA), Egypt’s official news wire. “Now we have complete freedom to write about anything – without any restriction.”

* In Mexico City, says Daniela Pastrana, the influence of drug cartels has presented distinct challenges to reporting in a state where corruption and violence are widespread, and journalists, police, and government officials are routinely murdered – resulting in collective efforts, meticulous fact-checking, and an emphasis on obtaining public records.

Ethnic Press Grapples With Media Policy Issues

New York Community Media Alliance’s Jehangir Khattak reports for New America Media that a recent information exchange between journalists and advocates held in Boston at the National Conference for Media Reform in April helped the ethnic press address ways to better cover media policy issues for their audiences.

As Khattak notes, the exchange “addressed steps ethnic and community media can take to increase coverage of media policy issues and how to improve the quality of current reporting. [It] also examined the role of media policy advocates in crafting the best course for effective messaging on these issues and what steps they should take.”

Understanding media policy issues can help close the digital divide, which affects underserved, ethnic and minority communities the most.

The Wavelength is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. This post features the best independent, progressive reporting about media policy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. To read this and other issues of The Wavelength, click here.