FOX – Time Warner Merger Threatens Free Speech, Expression in Big Media

James Stewart of the NY Times cogently captures the real dangers to the public interest of the potential merger between FOX and Time Warner in this terrific analysis. Far more than economic power is at stake here; rather, control by one company of so many powerful mass media outlets threatens the vibrant “marketplace of ideas” — the multiplicity of differing and competing views, opinions, sources of news and entertainment, etc. that speak to the public via the mass media.  Would Bill Maher and John Oliver, stars on Time Warner’s HBO and frequent critics of Rupert Murdoch of Fox, survive if Murdoch were suddenly to become their boss?  Would there be more subtle ways that other Time Warner “voices” that Murdoch disagrees with might get squelched were he to become the boss?  Would future shows like Maher’s and Oliver’s, and all the compelling HBO documentaries that take on the Powers That Be, still be commissioned by HBO or other Time Warner outlets if Murdoch was the boss?  Take a look at FOX News — is that a forum where, in Justice Hugo Black’s famous phrase, “diverse and antagonistic sources” of news and opinion are welcomed?  Hardly.  Would that hugely profitable FOX News model become the template for this huge merger?  Why not?

Black’s full and ringing declaration was that ““The widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public.” There can be little doubt that a Fox – Time Warner merger would significantly reduce that dissemination. If the “widest possible dissemination” is “essential to the welfare of the public,” it clearly should not be approved.