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Annenberg Professor Victor Pickard Talks About Net Neutrality and the History of Media Reform

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Victor Pickard, assistant professor at Annenberg School for Communication at U of Pennsylvania, talks about the current battle at the FCC over net neutrality, and the history of media reform going back to the 1940’s.Pickard has a deep knowledge of media regulation and the need for reform, informed by his work with Robert McChesney at U of Illinois and with Free Press, the activist group co-founded by McChesney, John Nichols and Josh Silver.  His new book is America’s Battle for Media Democracy: The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform.

We open with a discussion of the current FCC struggle over net neutrality, and the role of chair Tom Wheeler, who was top lobbyist for cable and wireless phone industries, and initially was ready to jettison neutrality.

We compare Wheeler to a predecessor and major figure in Pickard’s book, Larry Fly, who was appointed FCC chair by FDR in 1939.  Fly broke up the duopoly of NBC and CBS, creating ABC.  And he presided over the process that produced the Fairness Doctrine, which Pickard notes was a weak compromise.  PBC offers an idea for replacing the Fairness Doctrine with a stronger license renewal process, and we talk about the elements needed for real media reform.