From Publishers Weekly
In recent years, the Federal Communications Commission has come under fire from advocacy groups and, increasingly, the general public for its regulatory decisions (or, in many cases, lack thereof). Writing in the tradition of critic Robert McChesney, media watchdog Jeff Chester examines the FCC, charting the close network of lobbyists, trade associations and other industry representatives in which it is embedded. Through close analysis of recent FCC moves and decisions on media consolidation and network neutrality, Chester makes a damning and important case for sweeping reform in governmental regulation, culminating in a series of policy recommendations that would adjust the balance of power between media corporations and customers. Unfortunately, Chester is mostly preaching to the converted; the general tone of the book is so stridently (even antagonistically) polemic that it's more likely to turn off uninformed or dissenting readers than persuade them. While offering red meat for those already concerned about issues of personal privacy and media choice in an era of growing corporate media oligarchy, Chester doesn't do much to reach beyond them, limiting the book's appeal both as a book and as a piece of advocacy. (Jan.)
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*Starred Review* How is it, the author asks, that every new communications technology, from radio to cable television, is hailed as the one that will make the media more democratic and then is almost immediately subverted (or perhaps perverted) by politics and big business? Chester, a longtime critic of media commercialization, explores how the newest technological breakthroughs, the digital media, could spell further disaster. Do we really want television sets that monitor what we watch? Or an Internet that knows what sites we visit and reports back to advertising companies? Do we want to see newspapers, television stations, and radio stations in the hands of massive corporations that control what we see and what we think? After scaring the bejeebers out of us, Chester concludes with a "policy agenda for the broadband era" in which he puts forward some badly needed reforms, such as strict rules governing the collection of information on the Internet; regulations limiting how many media a single company can own; and a complete overhaul of the FCC, to turn it from a "corporate lapdog" into a genuine communications watchdog. Cau
tionary tale is too weak a term for this angry call for democracy, fairness, and a little old-fashioned common sense. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved