Since Clear Channel Communications, the network that broadcast Dreamland when we were on the airwaves, is based here in San Antonio, there’s been lots of news about radio stations complaints that the media giant doesn’t give them a chance to be heard.

Since the Federal Communications Act of 1996 broke up FCC antitrust laws and made it legal for single companies to own vast numbers of media outlets, Clear Channel has gobbled up the competition and most likely controls the airwaves in your home town. Since the owners are right wing in both politics and religion, you could call this a conspiracy, except that the law was passed when Clinton was president.

While Clear Channel never told us what to say on Dreamland, they definitely do promote their doctrines and beliefs over the airwaves, which is probably why they didn’t try to keep us on after Art Bell retired, despite the fact that we had plenty of listeners. Many towns report that what used to be their local radio station has been taken over by Clear Channel. More liberal places, like college towns in the Northeast, are especially upset, because the they feel the views promoted on talk shows no longer reflect those of the community. They’ve lost their ?voice.

This is more of the dreary sameness that seems to be spreading everywhere. I remember the first time I saw a copy of USA Today. I thought: A national newspaper?impossible! How could they cover all the local news? But now it’s slipped under the doors of millions of hotel rooms daily.

I remember when franchise stores and restaurants started crowding out the locals until today, it’s hard to find a place to eat or shop that isn’t part of a national chain. These stores brought prices down and made luxuries like VCRs and meals out possible for millions who’d done without them before. But now most of us live in a world filled with mall after strip mall containing the exact same stores. One of the joys of going on vacation is traveling to a place like New York or San Francisco where you can still enjoy shopping in unique boutiques.

But that’s less true than ever before. The last time I was in Europe, I noticed that a few major franchises are taking over the streets there too. In Prague, only a few years after the fall of communism, I saw a Versace store next to places selling local glassware and puppets.

When it comes to the media, this type of conformity is more than dreary, it’s dangerous. Right wing, fundamentalist Christians aren’t interested a range of opinion. They believe they’re right and feel duty bound to spread their message as widely as possible. When they own the airwaves, we no longer get a chance to hear and evaluate different points of view. Does free speech matter, if we don’t get a chance to hear it?

NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.

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