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There are a few things we can say with some confidence regarding communications policy in 2004. Both the evangelical right and the pro-business right held major sway over the federal agencies that were formed to oversee communications activity on behalf of the entire public= The trend toward consolidation continued in both the sector that produces content and the sector that distributes content. While the communications industries spent millions influencing policy, they also made billions in return for that investment. While a few stockholders benefited from this state of affairs, most consumers did not. Democracy, and the enlightened citizen so necessary to make it function, most certainly did not benefit from the state of communications policy in 2004.

Here are just a few of the numbers:

  1. Number of indecency violations the FCC issued in 2004: 12
  2. Number issued in 2003: 3
  3. Amount of fines for indecency violations in 2004: $ 7,928,000
  4. Amount of fines for indecency violations in 2003: $ 440,000 [1]
  5. Amount of fines for false political advertising in 2004: $0 [2]
  6. Amount TV took in for political advertising in 2004: $1.6 billion
  7. Amount TV took in for political ads in 2000: $771 million [3]
  8. Amount CBS accepted for political ads by the United Church of Christ and MoveOn in 2004: $0 [4]
  9. Amount cable television providers spent to influence federal officials from 1998 through June 2004: $140.6 million
  10. Amount TV and radio broadcasters spent to influence federal officials from 1998 through June 2004: $248.9 million
  11. Amount telecommunications industry spent to influence federal officials from 1998 through June 2004: $559 million [5]
  12. Percentage of Americans who got most of their election information from Fox News: 21% [6]
  13. Percentage of Americans who got most of their election information from Fox News and supported Bush: 70%
  14. Percentage of Americans who got most of their election information from Fox News and supported Kerry: 21%[7]
  15. Percentage of Bush supporters who wrongly believed that Iraq had WMD or major WMD programs: 72%
  16. Percentage of Kerry supporters who wrongly believed this: 26%
  17. Percentage of Bush supporters who wrongly believed Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda: 76%
  18. Percentage of Kerry supporters who wrongly believed this: 30%[8]
  19. Value of merger between Sprint and Nextel: $35 billion [9]
  20. Amount the Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company) will pay to acquire the online news service MarketWatch: $463 million [10]
  21. Average cable bill in 2004: $50.98
  22. Percentage of increase in monthly cable bills nationwide from 1998 to 2004: 45%
  23. Average satellite bill in 2004: $49.08 [11]
  24. How much most Americans spent monthly on local phone service in 2004: $38
  25. How much most Americans spent monthly on local phone service in 2003: $34 [12]

Let us resolve to work harder to correct these problems in 2005.

Mark Lloyd is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.


[1]. FCC, Statistical Information on Indecency Complaints & NALs, 1993 – 2004 at http://www.fcc.gov/eb/broadcast/ichart.pdf; and see FCC, Notices of Apparent Liability at http://www.fcc.gov/eb/broadcast/NAL.html (refers to line items 1, 2, 3 and 4).

[2]. There are no rules that allow the FCC to impose fines for false political advertising.

[3]. Mark Memmott and Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY, "Election ad battle smashes record in 2004", Nov. 25, 2004 (refers to line items 6 and 7).

[4]. CBS actually refused to take money to air political advertisements from either of these groups in 2004.

[5]. Center for Public Integrity, "Networks of Influence: The political power of the communications industry," October 28, 2004 (refers to line items 9, 10 and 11).

[6]. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Survey Reports, Voters Liked Campaign 2004, But Too Much 'Mud-Slinging'," November 11, 2004.

[7]. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Survey Reports, "Debate Coverage Viewed Favorably, News Audiences Differ on Horse Race," October 5, 2004 (refers to line items 13 and 14).

[8]. University of Maryland – PIPA/KN Study, "The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters," October 21, 2004 (refers to line items 15, 16, 17 and 18).

[9]. Michelle Kessler, USA TODAY, "Sprint, Nextel to Merge," Dec. 15, 2004

[10]. Martha Graybow, Reuters, "Dow Jones to Buy MarketWatch for $463 Mln," Jan. 2 2005. Note: The transaction was approved by the Anti-Trust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 21, 2004.

[11]. J.D. Power and Associates Reports: As Satellite TV Penetration Grows, Overall Customer Satisfaction among Satellite Subscribers Continues to Top Cable, August 18, 2004 (refers to line items 21, 22 and 23).

[12]. J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Web Sites and Online Billing Gain Popularity among Local Telephone Customers, July 21, 2004 (refers to line items 24 and 25)

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