Disastrous 1996 Telecommunications Act
by Stephen Lendman
The 1996 Telecommunications Act, during the Bill and Hillary Clinton co-presidency, deregulated all communication industries – paving the way for greater consolidation, less competition, less concern about diversity and choice, and higher profits at the expense of consumer-friendly policies.
At the time, Vice President Al Gore deceitfully called the measure an “early Christmas present for the consumers.” Its fallout was polar opposite.
Media scholar/critic Robert McChesney called the law “a farce,” in part “written by the lobbyists for the communication firms it affects.” All that mattered then and now is maximizing profits, serving private, not public interests.
One longtime lobbyist said he’d never seen anything like the Telecommunications Act before, calling “(t)he silence of public debate (at the time) deafening. A bill with such astonishing impact on all of us (was) not even being (publicly) discussed” – except as a business story unrelated to the public interest.
McChesney said it reflected “capitalist democracy at its best.” Nearly everything touted about it was false. Consumers got higher, not lower prices. Industries supporting the legislation claimed it would create 1.5 million new jobs. By 2003, half a million were lost.
Numerous studies documented how media conglomerates invest less in providing news and information, the quality of what’s offered deplorable by any standard.
AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner will be disastrous to consumers if approved. Media scholar Victor Pickard said it’ll “create a media behemoth with dangerous concentrations of political and economic power.”
“With one corporation controlling so much production and distribution of news and entertainment media, this vertical integration poses significant potential hazards for millions of consumers…It raises serious antitrust concerns.”
It’s certain to worsen the media and telecommunications landscape, putting too much power in the hands of a corporate giant, greater consolidation in both industries they represent certain to follow.
Free Press policy director Matt Wood issued a statement, saying “(a)ny time you hear media executives talking about synergies, throwing around the business-babble that always accompanies these rumors, you know it’s time grab your wallet and hang on tight.”
“Big mergers like this inevitably mean higher prices for real people, to pay down the money borrowed to finance these deals and their golden parachutes.”
“The deals are driven by Wall Street’s insatiable desire for short term growth at any cost. And just as AT&T’s recent purchase of DirecTV was quickly followed by price hikes, there’s every reason to expect this potential tie-up would cost internet users and TV viewers dearly too.”
It’ll be a bonanza for Wall Street, if approved. According to Bloomberg, major banks “are writing some of their biggest checks ever to” finance the deal for enormous fees it represents, along with subsequent bond offerings likely to find eager buyers.
JPMorgan Chase pledged an astonishing $25 billion for the significant return it could yield. According to banking consultant Bert Ely, “(t)his could be an especially lucrative deal for the banking industry. They’re going to make a lot of money if the deal gets done.”
Trump opposes it, warning of “too much concentration of power.” Hillary is a notorious Wall Street tool, partnered with husband Bill on the 1996 Telecommunications Act, likely to support what demands opposition.
Over the weekend, her campaign declined to comment on her position. Major Wall Street banks didn’t pay her millions of dollars in speaking fees to oppose it – or challenge certain greater media and telecommunications consolidation to follow.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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