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Al Gore and media consolidation

August 28, 2006

Mr. Inconvenience is telling us that "democracy is under attack", that "democracy is a conversation" and that media organizations are obtaining greater political and economic power.

Al Gore goes after the media by saying that "the most important role of the media is to facilitate that conversation of democracy. Now the conversation is more controlled, it is more centralized." What needs to be answered is why does it seem that the (traditional) media is becoming more consolidated?

Imagine trying to start your own TV or radio station. Imagine the FCC licenses that would need to be paid and all the regulatory paperwork that would have to be filed. The costs of starting up a competing media outlet are staggering.

Compare the above with what is happening online. We have access to blogs and Internet news and media companies. They are not as regulated (or not regulated at all) and thus entry costs are much lower. The result: a largely decentralized online community offering widely varied opinions. A lower entry barrier means that virtually anyone equipped with Internet access can start a blog or join a blogging team or establish a local or regional news agency. This is next to impossible on the traditional broadcast media, where only the major players are the ones who can "compete."

In the end, Al Gore should only blame government intervention (permits and licenses, fees and regulations) for creating the situation that he now complains about. Centralization of the media is symptomatic of the centralization of government. And that, Mr. Gore, should inconvenience you.

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