HIGHTOWER: Four News Networks to Become One

When a big industry goes to Congress with a fat legislative package that it claims is necessary to "modernize" the industry and make it "more globally competitive" ... duck ... because they're shooting at you.In the case of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, they were shooting at both your wallet ... and your democracy. The telephone and cable corporations promised the Act would "free them" to lower your monthly bills. Have you checked your bill lately? It's up, not down.But ultimately the more harmful lie was the assertion by the TV networks that the Telecommunications Act would allow them to be more competitive and do a better job of delivering not only entertainment, but also news and information -- the very lifeblood of our democracy. What have they delivered instead? Consolidation, not competition; infomercials, not information.Check-out the networks: ABC is owned by Disney, CNN by Time Warner, CBS by Westinghouse, NBC by GE, and Fox by the News Corporation. Far from competing to bring us more and better news coverage, these conglomerates are cutting back and merging. CNN and CBS recently announced that they're in talks to combine their two network news operations into one. Likewise, ABC and NBC are considering merging some of their news operations into the CNN empire of Time Warner. Instead having these four network news sources independent of each other and presumably scrambling to out-do each other in delivering news stories ... the four would become one, not competing but cooperating -- even colluding -- on what they present to us citizens as "the news" of our world. As former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite put it, "The networks are simply letting down the American public."This is Jim Hightower saying ... If the networks are not going to do their job, then it's time to turn our airwaves over to groups that really want to deliver the news we need.

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