Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean's beef with big media just got a lot meatier. Now the former Vermont governor is threatening to break up media conglomerates, although he wouldn't exactly say which ones.
Under pressure from MSNBC Hardball
host Chris Matthews to clarify his views on media concentration, Dean on the Dec. 1 show vowed, "Yes, we're going to break up giant media enterprises."
Asked whether Fox and NBC owner GE should be divestiture candidates, he wouldn't commit but hinted that GE at least could be on his hit list. "That doesn't mean we're going to break up all of GE."
As for Fox, Dean joked that he would break the right-leaning network, presumably from parent News Corp., "on ideological grounds."
Although it's a long time until the election next November, media concentration has became a hot-button issue since the FCC voted to increase the ownership cap to 45%.
In the 1996 presidential campaign, Republican Bob Dole tried to make an issue of the "spectrum giveaway" to broadcasters, but that issue, complex to the layman, never moved voters, and neither did Dole's overall campaign.
Dean has repeatedly complained about the FCC's June 2 broadcast-ownership deregulation, but it's unclear whether his latest threat was part of a crafted policy or just off the top of his head.
Eleven companies "control 90% of what ordinary people are able to read and watch on their television," Dean said. "That's wrong. We need to have a wide variety of opinions in every community. We don't have that because of Michael Powell and what George Bush has tried to do to the FCC.
Dean also promised to appoint FCC commissioners who "believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one."