Hightower: The Telecommunications Grizzly

There's an old cowboy saying: "Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly."But our so-called protectors of the public interest in Washington dropped their guns a few days ago and embraced a great big grizzly that is headed straight for us. The grizzly is something they call the "Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996" -- but it should be called the "Media Monopoly Act of '96."Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich alike assure us that this is just a big ol' friendly bear that will be great to have around. Right. Remember, that's what those two guys told us about NAFTA!Their Telecommunications Act is an anti-consumer, anti-democracy monster that turns loose your phone company, cable company, newspaper and the Radio and TV companies to merge and monopolize local markets -- raising your monthly bills, lowering the service they provide and restricting what you get in the way of news and information."Oh." they say, "we wouldn't restrict your news."Really? Notice that there was no telecommunication on the Telecommunications Act itself! The day before it was rammed through Congress, the national media was strangely silent, totally failing to inform us citizens that a grizzly was about to be turned loose. There was not a peep about it on any TV broadcast, radio news report or in the daily papers.Why? Because such corporate owners of the media as Rupert Murdoch (who owns Fox), Disney (which owns ABC), GE (which owns NBC) and Westinghouse (which owns CBS) all stand to make a killing with this legislative boondoggle, and they don't want any citizen uprising to get in their way, so -- shhhhh -- they kept their bill a little secret.Heads up folks! It's our democracy that's at stake here. To fight back against these monopolists, call the Consumer Federation of America: 202/387-6121

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