Moyers Warns Of Media Consolidation — Of the Internet — at Big Conference

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Critics of media consolidation by large corporations should also be worried about corporate intentions for the Internet, TV journalist Bill Moyers said Friday at a National Conference for Media Reform.

Moyers, an award-winning PBS producer and commentator, warned conference participants from around the country that corporate America wants to expand its control over the Internet while limiting access by average citizens.

“Big Media is ravenous. It never gets enough,” Moyers said.

Debate over so-called “network neutrality” is expected to resurface in Washington this year, and Moyers urged his audience to keep a close watch on the discussions.

“Track it day by day,” he said. “If we lose the future now, we’ll never get it back.”

Moyers, a longtime critic of large media corporations, was a key speaker at the three-day convention organized by Free Press, a nonprofit group that describes itself as part of a growing movement to increase public access to all forms of American media.

Consolidation of media outlets by big corporations makes profit, rather than any consideration of the public good, the top priority, Moyers said.

“In-depth coverage of anything, let alone the problems real people face day to day, is as scarce as sex, violence and voyeurism are pervasive,” he said.

Speeches and workshops on a variety of media-related topics were scheduled for the nearly 3,000 participants signed up for the convention, but corporate consolidation of media outlets and fear of efforts to limit the public’s Internet access were of primary interest.

Proponents of “network neutrality” say they want to keep broadband service providers who control traffic on the Internet from giving special treatment to their richer customers. Opponents say “net neutrality” means “net regulation.”

The Memphis conference was the third such gathering organized by Free Press, and the largest, which shows a growing public interest in how the American media operate, said co-founder Robert McChesney.

“We’re saying to people get involved now. Understand what’s going on,” he said. “Don’t wait until the people in power set the agenda and then say, ‘Maybe I’ll get in here and protest.'”

Cybilla Hawks, a retired physical therapist, said she and several other residents of Huntsville, Ala., came to the convention for tips on getting local media outlets to expand programing, “to represent a broader base of people.”

“We’re talking to the editorial board of our newspaper and to the program director of our public radio station,” Hawks said. “We’re also trying to talk with commercial radio stations.”

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