Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders has weighed in on the state of U.S. media, unveiling a plan to stop big media mergers and bolster independent news.
“Today, after decades of consolidation and deregulation, just a small handful of companies control almost everything you watch, read, and download,” Sanders wrote in an op-ed for the Columbia Journalism Review.
He called for concrete action to thwart today’s “assault on journalism” by Wall Street, billionaire businessmen, Silicon Valley and President Donald Trump.
Sanders said his administration would to institute an immediate moratorium on approving mergers of major media corporations until there is a better understanding of their effects on democracy.
In the spirit of existing federal laws, major media corporations would be required to disclose whether or not their corporate transactions and merger proposals would involve significant journalism layoffs.
Before any mergers can take place, under Sanders’ plan, employees would be given the opportunity to purchase media outlets through employee stock-ownership plans—an innovative business model that was first pioneered in the newspaper industry.
His administration would prevent media-related merger and deregulation decisions at federalagencies that adversely affect people of color and women.
He promises that his administration would limit the number of stations that large broadcasting corporations can own in each market and nationwide.
Additionally, he pledges to implement his Workplace Democracy Plan in an effort to boost boost media workers’ efforts to form unions and collectively bargain with their employers.
He pledged to appoint an attorney general as well as Federal Trade Commission officials
who more stringently enforce antitrust laws against tech giants like Facebook and Google “to prevent them from using their enormous market power to cannibalize, bilk and defund news organizations.”
He promises to explore new ways to empower media organizations to collectively bargain with these tech giants and to consider taxing targeted ads, using the revenue to fund nonprofit civic-minded media.
“Our constitution’s First Amendment explicitly protects the free press because the founders understood how important journalism is to a democracy,” writes Sanders. “More than two centuries after the constitution was signed, we cannot sit by and allow corporations, billionaires, and demagogues to destroy the Fourth Estate, nor can we allow them to replace serious reporting with infotainment and propaganda.”