Dean Threatens to Break Up Media Giants

Democratic presidential front-runner Howard Dean’s beef with big media just got a whole lot meatier. Now the former Vermont governor is threatening to break up media conglomerates, although he wouldn’t exactly say which ones.

Under relentless pressure from Hardball’s Chris Matthews to clarify his views, Dean on Monday’s show vowed, "Yes, we’re going to break up giant media enterprises." Questioned whether Fox and NBC owner GE should be divestiture candidates, Dean 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." Dean has repeatedly complained about the FCC’s June 2 broadcast ownership deregulation, but it’s unclear whether his threat was part of a crafted policy or just off the top of his head. He didn’t go easy on FCC Chairman Michael Powell or President Bush, both who have supported ownership deregulation.

Eleven companies "control 90% of what ordinary people are able to read and watch on their television," he 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." He added, "If the state has an interest, which it does, in preserving democracy, then there has to be a limitation on how deeply the media companies can penetrate every single community. To the extent of even having two or three or four outlets in a single community, that kind of information control is not compatible with democracy."

Dean also promised to appoint FCC commissioners who "believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one."