By Edith Morgan
There has been a lot of talk about the upcoming merger between Charter and Comcast, and the general feeling is that it is a “done deal.”
How is it that we the viewing public have been sold , apparently without previous input, to what several Worcester city councilors at the October 14th city council meeting described as “the worst company in the U.S.”? And in a couple of months, the local and public access stations will be moved to the back of the bus – the educational channel (now #11) will become 191; the government channel, where we watch council and school committee and subcommittee meetings, and receive news about things of interest to residents in Worcester (now #12), will become #192 …
Our public access channel, WCCA TV 13, now # 13, will become #194.
Why??? you ask.
Because the lower numbers will become lucrative commercial channels, selling things.
Because, of course, it is all about the bottom line. And service to the public is not what this is all about. (Disclosure: I am especially concerned, as I host a TV program called “SeniorSpeak” on the present WCCA TV 13.)
How did we get to this point?
When I came to America in 1941, the airwaves belonged to the public.
The communications act of 1934 was quite clear about how our air was to be used: stations had to be licensed, and had to renew their licenses every three years, and they were required to offer proof (testimony, letters, etc..) that they were serving the public interest. There were lots of stations, offering a variety of programs, serving varied populations all over the U.S.
But a set of trends was slowly let loose, which increasingly took away what used to be services for us, the people, and put them into the hands of the “bottom-line crowd”. Service became an incidental sideline, and all that mattered was the bottom line – enriching the investors and providing just enough to keep the company alive and growing. And so, much of what I remember as “services” became “businesses”. Banks, health care, schools, postal service – local newspapers, your corner drugstore, your grocery, your butcher, your hardware dealer – all were our friends and neighbors, and were not totally consumed by the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Of course, the monopolists were busy trying to consolidate, eliminate the competition, drive down wages and benefits, but antitrust laws were in effect and by and large were not allowed to grow “too big to fail.” (Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him?)
I was really proud of our City Council on Tuesday, October 14th: even though it was already pretty much out of their power, they discussed the ramifications of this merger, the track record of Comcast, and the whole history of our service here, and voted to oppose this merger. They took a moral stand on behalf of us, the public, whom they are pledged to serve.
Comcast has deep pockets, and has spread money around in Washington, but for some strange reason I am beginning to feel hopeful that from moves like this will grow a groundswell of opposition to these takeovers. Now, let’s really get on the media and force the FCC , FTC and Justice Department to do their jobs on our behalf.
Worcester has a long history of revolting – and starting something …