[22 June 2006]
Two controversial battles heated up recently: the FCC wants to give media monopolies more leeway and some rappers are accusing day-time talk goddess Oprah Winfrey of being a rap hater.
After launching an indecency battle where network fines were increased tenfold, the FCC was triumphantly gloating in its victory as immediately all crime statistics in America immediately plummeted and juvenile delinquency disappeared also. Well not really but that’s what they’d have you believe, especially after their buddies in Congress (in both parties too) went along with this boondoggle. Now parents are free to stop monitoring what their kids watch and don’t have to take any more responsibility for their upbringing.
Now, in their finite wisdom, the FCC has also decided to revive the old warhorse of media consolidation: FCC launches battle over media ownership limits. They’re in favor of it and as a branch of the government which serves the people, why shouldn’t they be? While their last attempt to each ownership rules was shot down in court and contested by two million complaints, the FCC nevertheless saw fit to take up this cause despite two thorny problems. First, any minor complaint by the Parents Television Council launches a campaign in its own ranks (as opposed to a genuine mass reaction from the general public) makes the FCC respond immediately to cater to their every wish, it appears that a real ground swell of public support against consolidation means absolutely nothing to them. Second, in these hearings, the FCC (and their major media masters who rear ends they smooch even more than the PTC) has yet to answer an important questions: how exactly do these consolidation proposals serve the public interest? A: they don’t. But that’s obviously besides the point.
As for the FCC argument that they HAVE to increase the limits for media ownership because there’s too much competition from other places like the Net, a Canadian study sets that straight: Canada Urged to Scrutinize Media Mergers.
Senator Joan Fraser, who headed the Committee on Transport and Communications during most of the review, rejected the idea that the Internet and other new technologies had expanded the news options available to consumers. “If the same initial source is feeding all these sources, you don’t have diversity,” Ms. Fraser, a former newspaper editor, told a news conference.
An excellent point and another bone of contention that you likely won’t hear the FCC addressing. In all, this Mediabistro headline sums up the FCC’s work the best: FCC Renews Deeply Principled Battle to Help Rupert Murdoch Make More Money
And speaking of misguided battles, how about the one that deeply (un)principled rappers like 50 Cent and Ice Cube are launching against Oprah, saying that she has no love for them or (by extension) rap music. First of all, the blanket statement they make is a lie because she has in fact featured other rappers on her show. Her beef is with some rappers in particular who go for misogyny. Summing up the real points of contention here is an excellent article from Alternet by Yvonne Bynoe: Rappers Aren’t Feeling Oprah’s Love.
“Oprah does not have a problem with rap music—she has a problem with rap that degrades women. Unfortunately, among black Americans there is little substantive debate about how popular culture affects our communities; any criticism of rap music, however slight or legitimate, is routinely dismissed as “hating”... Implicit in all of the criticism from rap artists is the idea that because Oprah is black, she is expected to push every black entertainer’s latest film or album, regardless of her opinion. The underlying sentiment is that if she is unwilling to set aside her values, then she can’t be down for black people.”
Bynoe’s article goes on to say that if 50 or Cube want to spew their hateful anti-woman B.S., they have a right to but that doesn’t mean that Oprah has to support them necessarily (which brings back memories of another recent controversy over Nelly and Spelman College). The argument that she’s not supporting the black community because she takes a principled stand is nonsense because in fact, taking this stand means that she supports her own community by NOT latching on to what she believes are some of the worst elements of it in the entertainment world. As someone who owns albums by 50 and Cube, I still say good for her.
But… even though I agree in principle with Oprah’s decision, it might be even more helpful to have a forum where entertainers like 50 and Cube would explain themselves and try to defend their outlook and face detractors who aren’t down with their mind set. It’s one thing to try to brush aside a point of view (especially one that’s prevalent) but it’s better to confront it, understand it and have a geniune dialog about it. Just make sure you don’t get the FCC to moderate- their M.O. is to make up their mind about an issue against the public interest and then hold meaningless hearings that they then ignore.