Skip to main content

Democracy 'At Risk' From Cable, Satellite

"It is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk."

That dire warning about the dangers of cable news and information came from Al Gore, former Vice President and now co-founder of cable news and information network, Current TV. But Gore was drawing a distinction between the established nets "monopolized" by a few big companies, and his own cable/Internet hybrid.

"There is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television's domain," he said in a speech in New York Thursday. "My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television."

Gore was preaching to the choir—a conference sponsored by We Media, the populist Web journalism movement—about the dangers of media monopoly, and the rise of the Web as the new forum for independent media. "The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet," he said.

He made a pitch for keeping the Web accessible, saying the same corporate "feudalists" who have gained control of TV are threatening to do the same with the Web. "We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well," he told his audience.

Gore opined over the FCC's scrapping of the fairness doctrine and the resultant rise of Rush Limbaugh and "other hate mongers."

He also didn't have nice things to say about the current administration's approach to the media.

"The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek," Gore said.

He added: "Every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President."

Full text of the speech is available at

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.