News Roundup Special: The U.S. Is Messing with the Media

Hello, readers! This news roundup is jammed packed because it deals with several aspects of the media: The Internet, broadcast TV, the size of multimedia corporations, and deregulation. All of the following stories have been developing for weeks but not all have been discussed on this blog — until now.

Table of Contents

Here are the stories I have curated for this week:

Net Neutrality and the FCC

  • A Review
  • Pai’s Plan to Repeal and What It Entails
  • The Record-Breaking Support for Net Neutrality
  • The Republicans’ Blasé Attitude

Sinclair Broadcast Group

The AT&T/Time Warner Merger

Worst-Case Scenarios

What’s Next?


Source List

Net Neutrality and the FCC

net neutrality, Open Internet Order, Title II, FCC, AT&T, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tribune, Ajit Pai
Tom Wheeler probably doesn’t feel that way about Ajit Pai, but I do. The corporate shill.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that net neutrality is one of my top two issues. As such, I have written extensively about the topic here on occasion.

You should also know that Trump FCC Chairman Ajit V. Pai is on a missing to completely undermine the FCC and part of it is ridding the commission of all of its toughest regulations, including net neutrality, despite what the public wants.

According to a June 2017 Morning Consult/Politico poll, 60% of Americans supported the principles of net neutrality. There was a 2% difference between respondents from both parties (59% of Republicans and 61% of Democrats).

In April, a poll found that 51% of respondents were opposed to treating the internet access like a utility. However, once the concept of net neutrality was explained to them, 61% said they supported the principles of net neutrality.

This is the good news.

The bad news includes the fact that many people are still uninformed about the topic. Sixty-four percent of those polled said they didn’t know enough about net neutrality to weigh in or held no opinion whatsoever.

The worst news is how the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Republican lawmakers are openly disregarding public opinion and input regarding net neutrality. These people are definitely in the pockets of corporations, especially telecom companies, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) said as much when he advocated the use of fast lanes to access certain online content.

A Review

As I said before, net neutrality is the principle that governs broadband providers. Under the FCC’s rules, which were established by the Open Internet Order of 2015, internet service providers (ISP’s) like Comcast, Charter, and Verizon are barred from doing the following: blocking content, throttling content, and forcing companies that produce content from being forced to pay to have their content move through fast lanes.

There is also a part of the Open Internet order that dealt with general behaviors. This is the weakest part of the order then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler admitted that the rule was put there because he didn’t know which behaviors should be covered. This might include zero-rating, a controversial practice by telecommunications companies that allows them to prioritize their content by allowing customers to use certain apps without it counting against their monthly data usage.

The Open Internet Order also classified internet service as a utility and ISP’s as “common carriers,” because they provide a service that goes over state lines. And broadband companies were classified under Title II under the legal advice of judges. Title II is what makes the order work.

ISP’s like to say that they will voluntarily follow the spirit of net neutrality, but time and again corporations have shown that they don’t follow rules that don’t exist or aren’t enforced.

The Open Internet Order does not need to be scrapped entirely, but it could be revised. For example: The order also allowed for exceptions for smaller companies, those serving 100,000 customers or less. Some of the rules were later relaxed to help businesses with no more than 250,000 customers.

Yet that hasn’t stopped telecoms from trying to get rid of it all. Now, they have a friend in Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer.

Pai’s Plan to Repeal and What It Entails

In April, Pai submitted a proposal to undo the Obama-era internet rules. He cited the lack of broadband investment by companies since the Open Internet Order was issued. The proposal opened up a public comment period that ended around August 18, but was extended at least twice.

This past week, Pai introduced his full plan to repeal net neutrality rules. Among the things the repeal would do is shift some responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). There is also a provision to block states from creating their own FCC laws (but state will likely try regardless). The rules will come to a vote on December 14, and they will pass since there is a 3-2 majority in favor of the Republicans.*

* In June, Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Brendan Carr were confirmed as Commissioners. This is Rosenworcel’s second stint.

The Record-Breaking Support for Net Neutrality

Pai’s plan is a stinker for many reasons, one of them being the complete disregard for public (consumer) input. As I said above, more and more people like the idea of net neutrality. That’s especially true due to how important the Internet is to our daily lives.

And this year, more people let it be known that they wanted a truly free and open Internet. On July 12, the Internet Day of Action brought in at least 2 million comments, the most for one day. To date, the number of public comments reached 22 million.

Now, to temper this news, let it be known that many pro-net neutrality comments came from form letters. Other comments, totaling at least 1.3 million, appeared to be from bots. (Those were against net neutrality). But … when purely original comments were filtered out, 99.7% were pro-net neutrality.

Sadly this was not enough to sway any of the Republicans at the FCC.

The Republicans’ Blasé Attitude

From the beginning (of his time as an FCC Commissioner), Ajit Pai has let it be known that he doesn’t give a fig about public outcries. He has always been against net neutrality and he was chomping at the bit after last November came and went. He is a corporate shill and he is not trying to hide it.

When Pai was asked about the volume of comments, he didn’t flinch and made it clear that he would proceed to kill net neutrality. He also took the extra step of being a total douche and saying he would disregard the comments that didn’t have an “economic analysis” to it. He later had an FCC official deliver the message that all comments without a sound legal argument would be rejected.

In addition, Pai has ignored numerous inquiries from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly isn’t any better. When asked what would stop him from voting to repeal the Open Internet Order, O’Rielly also said that an economic analysis from the public comments was needed. He also said that most of the comments left were not substantive and held no value.

What a couple of winners. Seriously, those two need to pay.

Speaking of pay, what is these guys’ motivation? Their buddies in Congress are bankrolled by telecoms, but are these two being driven for reasons beside money?

In the past, Tom Wheeler turned around on the issue when he was FCC Chairman, largely thanks to public pressure. It also helped that President Obama had a change of heart, thanks to online businesses joining the fight.

These nuts won’t crack.

Sinclair Broadcast Group

This topic is also connected to the FCC because the commission has some jurisdiction over broadcasters. And as it turns out, Ajit Pai has already paved the way for a big merger to happen.

A few months ago, I first heard word about Sinclair Broadcast Group’s attempt to acquire Tribune Media. Currently, Sinclair controls 173 television stations across the United States, making it the county’s largest TV broadcaster. If this merger were to go through, Sinclair would add 42 stations in states that include California and Wisconsin.

This proposed merger is controversial for a few reasons:

  1. The sheer size of the broadcaster already flouted federal law.
  2. The broadcaster would be given access to bigger markets, and 72% of American homes and thus have an outside influence in the country.
  3. The stations under this umbrella contain must-run news segments, like the “Terrorism Alert Desk” and opinion segments by conservatives.
  4. The broadcaster cut a deal with Jared Kushner during the 2016 election so it would have special access to Donald Trump.

Although news of this proposed merger does bother some conservatives, Pai isn’t one of them. In April of this year, he already raised the cap for the number of TV stations a company could own. Earlier this month, he and the other Republicans got rid of other regulations that limited the size of media companies, essentially paving the way for the Sinclair-Tribune Merger.

The AT&T/Time Warner Merger

AT&T is bullying the federal government and the former might be successful. While he was at The New York Times DealBook Conference on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2017, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said his company was ready to sue the U.S. government if a negotiated settlement for the deal to purchase Time Warner wasn’t reached.

The proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger, first announced in October 2016, hit a snag because the Justice Department has requested the sell off assets. In order to approve the deal, worth $85.4 billion, the Justice Department asked Time Warner to sell off CNN or its parent company, Turner Broadcasting. Alternatively, AT&T was asked to sell of its DirecTV assets. According to earlier reports, AT&T had offered to sell CNN; however, the wireless carrier later said that it had not made such an offer.

Time is also a sticking point. The Justice Department would like to impose conditions for what AT&T could or could not do after a deal for a period of up to 10 years, according to two people briefed on the talks. The corporation would like there to be a much shorter period for any restrictions.

There is a political aspect to this deal. Donald Trump has let it be known that he despises CNN and he would not want to see the news organization become bigger. While on the campaign trail, he said he would block the deal as president.

Worst-Case Scenarios

Well, I have some idea of what can happen with these problems, and it’s not pretty. Unfortunately, things can get worse than I think they can.

1. About the Net Neutrality Repeal

Prices for basic internet service will definitely be raised, in part aided by changes to plans. These changes might come in the form of cable-like plans, whereby Americans will have to pay extra to access certain websites. They might have data caps for each month, as well.

This would be incredibly prohibitive to new startups and regular customers. The former will be priced out of the market and blocked from revenue streams. The latter will be cut off to information and many employment opportunities.

Even worse is the effect on free speech. If the ISP’s have free rein to block access to certain websites, like websites that report on the malfeasance of the ISP’s, fewer people will be informed. Also, someone could be blocked if they have a certain political opinion.

Speaking of politics, a limited access to the internet will cut off grassroots candidates and fundraising. And with access to fewer websites, people will have less information about candidates. They might only know about candidates promoted on television, which helps the duopoly of the two major parties.

2. The Sinclair Deal

The worst-case scenarios of s Sinclair-Tribune merger doesn’t end with those two companies, although the immediate effects are political. With a right-wing network such as Sinclair given unprecedented access, fewer people will be informed of local matters or other matters beyond what the broadcaster wants viewers to see. And since television is still a leading source of information, this provides a greater opportunity to brainwash people.

Beyond Sinclair, the same will be true for other companies, but the greater concern might be more consolidation. The media was already deregulated in the 1990’s taking us from having 58 separate news outlets to six large ones. If companies like CBS or News Corp, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, can have access to more TV stations and newspapers, the news we have will be under tighter control.

3. The AT&T/Time Warner Merger

The deal is opposed by AT&T’s rivals and numerous observers because of the potential effects of the deal. Since Time Warner owns CNN and HBO its acquisition by AT&T would make the telecommunications giant even more powerful and likely lead it to charge its competitors more to carry Time Warner’s content. Also, AT&T would have Spectrum and thus control move of the broadband market. This compounds the problems of the net neutrality repeal.

AT&T argues that it would only seek to disrupt the media and advertising markets dominated by Alphabet (which includes Google), Amazon, and Facebook, but that is of no comfort, either. This compounds the problems with a loss of privacy.

What’s Next?

This post was long enough, but I want to take another look at net neutrality: the winners and losers, the purpose of protest, and how it can be saved (or revived). The other problems, Sinclair and AT&T, will be harder to solve.


In the meantime, here are a few links and resources for you to use:

Electronic Frontier Foundation: This is another website dedicated to Internet freedom. I contains regular articles and you can sign up for alerts.

FCC Address: Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW Washington, DC 20554

Fight for the Future: This website is dedicated to fighting for freedom on the website. You can sign up for alerts or to call your members of Congress, via Battle for the Net.

Save the Date to Save Net Neutrality: This page contains an infographic and banners you can use to raise awarness.

#SaveTheInternet (The Humanist Report): This page is dedicated to fighting for net neutrality. It has steps you can take to contact the FCC and the chairman in particular.


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Baksh, Mariam. “Poll Shows Broad, Bipartisan Support for Net Neutrality Rules.” Morning Consult. 21 June 2017. Web. <>.

Bloomberg Technology. “Former FCC Chairman Wheeler Reacts to Net Neutrality Plan.” YouTube. 21 Nov 2017. Video. <>.

Bode, Karl. “A Bot Is Flooding The FCC Website With Fake Anti-Net Neutrality Comments… In Alphabetical Order.” Tech Dirt. 10 May 2017. Web. <>.

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“Creators for Net Neutrality.” Internet Creators Guild. 6 July 2017. Web. <>.

Fang, Lee. “Civil Rights Groups, Funded by Telecoms, Back Donald Trump’s Plan to Kill Net Neutrality.” The Intercept. 13 Feb 2017. Web. <>.

Fang, Lee. “Lawmakers Who Championed Repeal of Web Browsing Privacy Protections Raked in Telecom Campaign Cash.” The Intercept. 13 Apr 2017. Web. <>.

Fang, Lee. “Trolls Paid by a Telecom Lobbying Firm Keep Commenting on My Net Neutrality Articles.” Vice. 6 Aug 2014. Web. <>.

Fang, Lee and Surgey, Nick. “Cable Industry Lobbyists Write Republican Talking Points on Net Neutrality.” The Intercept. 23 May 2017. Web. <>.

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Greer, Evan. “UPDATE: Historic day of action for Net Neutrality breaks records: more than 2 million comments to FCC, millions of emails and phone calls to Congress.” Fight for the Future. 13 July 2017. Web. <>.

Johnson, Jake. “National Day of Action Aims to ‘Save the Internet From Trump and His Cronies.’” Common Dreams. 11 July 2017. Web. <>.

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Operation Comcastroturf. Web. <>.

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Schneiderman, Eric. “An Open Letter to the FCC:.” Medium. 21 Nov 2017. Weblog. <>.

Sottek, T.C. “Verizon just blatantly betrayed net neutrality by excluding its video app from data caps.” The Verge. 5 Feb 2016. Web. <>.

The Young Turks. “Ajit Pai Ensuring Net Neutrality Will Stay Dead.” YouTube. 22 Nov 2017. Video. <>.

Tiffany, Kaitlyn. “Verizon Is Killing Tumblr’s Fight for Net Neutrality.” The Verge. 21 June 2017. Web. <>.

Verizon. “Where we stand on Net Neutrality.” YouTube. 28 Apr 2017. Video. <>.

Watson, Dave. “Comcast Customers Will Enjoy Strong Net Neutrality Protections –Today and in the Future.” Comcast. 26 Apr 2017. Weblog. <>.

Wolverton, Troy. “A new report says that broadband investment actually rose after net neutrality regulation.” Business Insider. 15 May 2017. Web. <>.

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Have any thoughts on the subject? Time’s yours.

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