On Meredith Atwell Baker's FCC-to-Comcast transition, with a slight discursion into eliminating corporations

Posted by Mitchell - May 19, 2011 (entry 672)

It's not much of a surprise that FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker left the FCC to work in the media industry: on the contrary it's what almost always happens to FCC commissioners. Nor is it a surprise that the conflict was so blatant with her conflict of interest voting for the controversial Comcast-NBC merger mere months before taking a job with Comcast. Indeed, the FCC can dredge up much worse examples, like Charles Denny. As longtime-friend-of-CMA Bob McChesney tells the story in The Problem of the Media:

The FCC's plan for the development of television was a particularly shameful episode. FCC chairman Charles Denny [a Democrat!] pushed for a plan that basically gave NBC and CBS near monopoly control, and six months later Denny left the FCC to triple his salary as an NBC executive.
All of this isn't much of a surprise, but what is a surprise (and somewhat heartening) is the backlash that has emerged against Meredith Atwell Baker (whose father-in-law is the notorious Republican consigliere and former secretary of state James Baker) has really made Baker the ugly poster-girl for corporate corruption in the politics of media and politics in general. Just look at her Wikipedia page, which is almost all about her move to Comcast. The New York Times even published an official op-ed decrying the move.

In response, Meredith Atwell Baker gave a sheepish defense saying that everything she did was legal. Yes, I feel SO much better now. I guess we now won't need to launch a criminal probe in Congress investigating the matter.

But what has been missing in the near-universal commentary decrying the move is the relative paucity of responses calling for proactive action. But kudos of the most potent (though incomplete) response goes to the website Lying Media Bastards, which commented:
As always, my solution to this problem is simple: the elimination of all corporations.
How refreshing to see a comment that strikes at the root of a problem. But if we take this comment as a starting point of a discussion, that discussion is very often short since most people couldn't even muster up a proposal as to how to eliminate all corporations. Luckily, this has been something I've written about. The proposal and analysis I would offer, in summary form, is as follows:

1. Corporations are monsters, as the film and book The Corporation made abundantly clear.
2. Corporations are monsters in response to the economic environment in which they reside, that of markets, where monstrous behavior is rewarded (and arguably all but required).
3. In order to eliminate to corporations, we would thus need to eliminate markets -- but doing so would require both (a) having a feasible alternate economy in its place, and (b) one which wouldn't replicate the problems of either command-planning or market economies.
4. The strongest contender, in my opinion, is the model of participatory economics -- by virtue of having been as complete as any proposal thus far invented.

Curiously, this discussion which got away from media for a bit dovetails back into the realm of media work since media and media policy are critical components of the outreach for discussion. After all, corporate media seldom will allow such discussion of the strategies of their downfall, so this means that defending and supporting those outlets where discussion on these topics can actually happen, like those outlined in the Chicago Independent Media Guide, are absolutely vital.

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