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R.I.P. First Amendment

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By Kafkalives 

It’s happening. The systemic takeover and removal of our beloved first amendment is happening with a ferocious speed, aided in no small part by a concerted effort between the Koch Brothers, the FCC, Trump, and the Department of Justice. Yesterday’s news that the Meredith Corporation was aided hugely by the Koch brothers to buy Time, Inc. was the rotten cherry on a shit year for America. Let’s start with a few back story incidents.

1997 — David Koch becomes a trustee on the board of PBS.

2013 — Jane Mayer, author of the book Dark Money, writes an article for the New Yorker about the film Citizen Koch, which was to air on PBS before being pulled for fear it would upset David Koch, who had given $23 million to Public Broadcasting. He subsequently resigns from the PBS board.

June 1, 2014John Oliver warns us about the need to keep net neutrality

2016–Anonymously financed Russian “trolls” feed thousands of targeted propaganda stories through social media outlets and alt right/conservative websites to millions of people. These stories are created to be specific to the target voter, and sound real enough that many are picked up by mainstream media as legitimate news, which in turn are broadcast to millions of viewers. Between social media and broadcast news, this propaganda is seen by countless potential voters. Speculation is that voter data mining company Cambridge Analytics, owned by Trump campaign funder Robert Mercer and formerly run by Steve Bannon of Breitbart, is possibly behind the Russian trolls.

Summer, 2016–Koch Industries becomes a corporate sponsor of NPR.

October 2016–AT&T tentatively begins talks with Time Warner to merge. Trump, a harsh critic of CNN—owned by Time Warner—vows to block the merger.

January 2017—FCC commissioner Ajit Pai meets with Sinclair Broadcast Group chairman David Smith to discuss “relaxing restrictions on television stations’ sharing of advertising revenue and other resources.”

January 2017--Pai is named FCC chairman.

February 2017—The FCC rescinds regulations, in their entirety and “effective immediately, earlier guidance provided in a March 12, 2014, public notice, DA 14-330, “Processing of Broadcast Television Applications ProposingSharing Arrangements and Contingent Interests.”

April 2017–The FCC loosens restrictions on how many stations a single entity may own.

Also in April–Sinclair hires former Trump White House official Boris Epshteyn to be its chief political analyst.

May 7, 2017John Oliver warns us about the FCC’s plan to gut net neutrality.

May 2017–Sinclair Broadcast Group—labeled “Trump TV” by Mother Jones magazine—agrees to buy Tribune Media. With the finalization of this purchase, Sinclair Broadcasting, already the largest owner of local television stations throughout the country—including WGN out of Chicago–will be the largest broadcast company in the U.S. with stations in many major markets (including traditionally Dem strongholds such as Northern Virginia, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles). Sinclair, already conservatively slanted, is ordered by Epshteyn to air required “must run” segments, inflammatory pieces with names such as Terrorism Alert Desk that are accompanied by shocking graphics meant to incite anger and fear in viewers.

July 2 2017John Oliver warns us about Sinclair Broadcast Group.

August 2017Pai speaks at a Sinclair Broadcasting event.

October 2017–AT&T begins an $85 billion merger discussion with Time Warner, the parent company of Time magazine and perennial Trump target CNN. AT&T recently purchased DirectTV which “…has access to 20 million households in the United States and also holds the lucrative rights to the National Football League’s Sunday Ticket package.”
November 8, 2017—The Justice Department tells AT&T the merger can go through if Time Warner divests itself of CNN.

November 8, 2017—Conflicting stories now report DirectTV as another potential divestment that will allow the deal to go through, but a source calls that “a “false choice” designed to disguise an attempt to punish CNN.  AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson feels the merger will go through.

November 9, 2017–FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a Koch supporter, announces he’s removing media cross ownership rule, a ban passed by the FCC in 1975 to ensure there was a diverse range of broadcast and media voices in a market. To ensure this diversity, the ban prohibited the ownership of a daily newspaper and any television or radio broadcast station that serviced the same community”.

November 10, 2017Reuters reports Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch twice this year talked to AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson to discuss buying CNN. Murdoch and Trump have a very friendly relationship.

November 16, 2017—The FCC, along party lines, votes to halt the Lifeline program, a program that offers discounted Internet and phone service to low income communities and Tribal lands. The commission “…also approved a proposal to consider limiting Lifeline subsidies to providers that own and operate their own networks” — Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). This would inhibit them from offering the Lifeline discount, which could lead to “over 70 percent of wireless Lifeline consumers being unable to use their preferred carrier and plan.”

November 16, 2017—The FCC votes, along party lines, to eliminate cross ownership rules.

November 21, 2017–the Justice Department blocks the merger of AT&T and Time Warner citing the merger is in possible anti-trust law violation. The JD tells AT&T the deal can go through if it divests itself of either DirectTV or Turner Broadcasting, the arm of Time Warner that owns CNN. If this were to happen, CNN would lose a massive amount of viewership.

November 21, 2017—New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman writes an open letter to FCC Chairman Pai accusing him of deliberately ignoring the AG’s repeated requests for assistance with its investigation of stolen identities on the FCC public comment page concerning net neutrality.

November 27, 2017—The Koch Brothers give $650million dollars to help Meredith Corporation buy Time Inc. publishing. According to Yahoo Finance, “Meredith’s National Media Group reaches 110 million unduplicated women every month, including 70 percent of U.S. Millennial women. Meredith is the leader in creating and distributing content across platforms in key consumer interest areas such as food, home, parenting and health through well-known brands such as Better Homes & Gardens, Allrecipes, Parents, SHAPE, Martha Stewart Living and The Magnolia Journal. Meredith’s Local Media Group includes 17 television stations reaching 11 percent of U.S. households. Meredith’s portfolio is concentrated in large, fast-growing markets, with seven stations in the nation’s Top 25 – including Atlanta, Phoenix, St. Louis and Portland – and 13 in Top 50 markets.” This deal joins two publishing conglomerates with, according to the Guardian “…a readership of 135 million people and paid circulation of nearly 60m. The deal also will expand Meredith’s reach with millennials, creating a digital media business with 170 million monthly unique visitors in the United States and more than 10bn annual video views.”

December 2017—The FCC is almost certain to gut net neutrality rules with a vote along party lines. This opens the door for a wide range of actions by giant Internet Service Providers to control the content we see, the speed we see it, and the price we pay to see it. It will quite negatively affect the resistance, which relies heavily on social media, will make voter suppression data harder to track, and real news harder to parse from the deluge of propaganda.