Recently, actress and activist Susan Sarandon, while talking to Larry King, blamed the decline of honest media reporting on former President Bill Clinton. As president, Clinton signed off on a bill that is now said to have allowed the American media to devolve into biased coverage and corporate sponsorship.
Sarandon only spoke of Clinton’s involvement briefly. She reminisced about her younger years when news channels reported on actual, factual news and kept the nation informed.
“In those days when you turned on the TV, you saw what was going on. It wasn’t like it is now; it wasn’t corporately owned. Thank you President Clinton for getting rid of all the regulations.”
Sarandon blames Bill Clinton’s signing of the 1996 Telecommunications Act for why today’s media seems so biased in favor of corporate interests.
The Telecommunication Act of 1996 is now two decades old. Before the Act, all jurisdiction in the telecommunications industry essentially went to U.S. District Court in D.C.. By the mid-1990s, it was overwhelmingly clear that the court was not the best resource for making technical decisions about the telecommunications industry.
So, Congress stepped in, and as they did, they were heavily lobbied.
According to The Hill, it was supposed to deregulate the industry more so that more competition could move in and more progress could be made.
The law easily made it through Congress and landed on President Bill Clinton’s desk. He signed the bill, which according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) was “essentially bought and paid for by corporate media lobbies.” While it was considered necessary at that time and a huge step forward for the industry, the actual law allowed corporate giants to buy up small media outlets across the nation, forming what most people now consider a telecommunications monopoly.
About 90 percent of U.S. media companies are owned by just six corporations. According to an article on Bill Moyers, the 1996 Telecommunications Act “is right up there with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and welfare reform, as being among the most tragic and destructive policies of (Bill Clinton’s) administration.”
According to critics, this law signed by Bill Clinton in 1996 is now a considerable asset to Bill’s wife Hillary as she pursues her bid for the White House. Big Media lobbies consistently support Hillary Clinton through massive donations and with the favorable spotlight they shine on her, critics say.
In fairness to Bill Clinton, only 3 percent of Congress voted against the Telecommunication Act of 1996. It was widely lobbied for and was considered a successful bipartisan effort. In the House, a mere 16 U.S. representatives had the foresight to vote against it, seeing its potential to allow for the building of a corporately controlled mainstream media, which they said would be destructive to both democracy and free speech.
One of those 16 U.S. representatives happened to be a certain someone from Vermont.
Indeed, Bernie Sanders was among the only 3 percent of all of the members of Congress who voted against the legislation. The bill was intended to deregulate the industry to allow for more competition, but in deregulating it, the industry was vulnerable to massive buyouts and mergers. Bernie Sanders and a few other lawmakers saw the writing on the wall and opposed the legislation at a time when almost everyone supported it.
— Tom Risen (@TomRisen) March 1, 2016
Now, two decades later, in an odd twist of fate, Bernie Sanders is experiencing first-hand the negative effects that are possible when almost all media outlets are owned by only a handful of major corporations, as explained in a piece on media black-outs from Decision Data. The Decision Data author claimed after a complete analysis of the statistics, “Bernie Sanders is being ignored by the mainstream media to a shocking degree. If covered at the average rate we’d have seen about 61,500 more stories including Sanders in the last 6 months.”
— AlexanderTheMeh (@Alexand3rTheMeh) April 7, 2016
In “Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy” by Robert W. McChesney, Derek Turner of Free Press was quoted as saying the following.
“Before the ink was even dry on the 1996 Act, the powerful media and telecommunications giants and their army of overpaid lobbyists went straight to work obstructing and undermining the competition the new law was intended to create.”
In the video below, you can watch Bill Clinton, amidst great fanfare, sign the bill that led to massive media consolidation, disdain from Susan Sarandon, and the purported media bias towards practically anyone who threatens the corporate stronghold.
[Image via C-SPAN]