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Democracy And Media Ownership Essay

1787 words - 7 pages

The press has historically hoisted accountability upon the people in power; it spread new ideas that allowed the repressed and controlled to realize freedom, and has continually been a bringer of transparency in government. American democracy was a direct result of the press; printers used the press to unify the country under propaganda of a single enemy. Yet, the traditional press is being commercialized, corporatized, and increasingly bent to the will of a select few. Meanwhile, a new press is rising from the disparity and demand of the citizenry.
In the first chapter of Legal Principles and Analytic Framework, Dr. Mark Cooper, a specialist in how telecommunications shape social issues, discusses how media ownership influences the press in American democracy. Primarily, he makes a case for why diversification of players is necessary for a functional democracy, and why concentrated media leads to concentrated points of view, which is inherently miasmal to democratic function. More specifically, he focuses on the Supreme Court's opinion of media ownership, which has consistently found media outlets to be a service of the democracy by way of its citizenry.
For example, Cooper quotes Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black, as saying that the First Amendment, and its inherent protection for the press' ability to spread information quickly, especially dissentient views, was necessary for the commonweal (Cooper 34). In this context, it stands to reason that having a decentralized press mirrors this country's self-limiting of political power through branches of government that abstract political control to the local level (state's rights). Therefore, just as dispersed government control facilitates localized accountability, fractured media facilitates local ownership and responsiveness. The end result is a tendency for locally owned outlets to cater their community, rather than to shareholders, whose interests are often entirely beyond the scope of relevant “news”.
Additionally, Cooper reasons that the Supreme Court's continual assessment that “media policy should promote a vigorous forum for democratic ideas” contradicts any contention that approval by consumption is a reasonable way for the public to force accountability of the media owners (Cooper 35). Rather, the Supreme Court believes that such a position would discourage democratic discourse; Cooper includes an excerpt from Cass Sunstein, referencing Justice Louis Brandeis' quote, “[t]he greatest menace to freedom is an inert people” (Cooper 37). Consequently, the Supreme court has decided that wherever the ability to disseminate information amongst the public is limited to a select group by regulation, it is the court's prerogative to ensure that the public good is served.
More specifically, Cooper cites the 1943 Supreme Court decision in the National Broadcasting Co. Vs. United States, as well as the subsequent case of FCC Vs. National Citizens Commission for Broadcasting, which both laid...

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