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This week's map: 25 years of media mergers

This week's entry in our ongoing Atlas of Media Maps series comes to us from Mother Jones magazine. Titled "And then there were eight: 25 years of media mergers, from GE-NBC to Google-YouTube," it's now more than a year old. But it effectively tells the story of a perpetual trend: the ever-increasing consolidation of media ownership.

This map builds on previous media consolidation mapping efforts, like The Nation's 2006 map of the National Entertainment State.

Such visualizations of the communications landscape have served as tools in the media reform movement, championed by advocates such as the Consumers Union, and have contributed to ongoing discussions about the degradation of local news, the rise of violence on television, and the commercialization of educational media.

Public broadcasting stands squarely in the middle of the media reform debate, serving as a noncommercial alternative for producing and distributing news, documentary films, community talk shows and more. Over the past few years, however, as the first map suggests, consolidation arguments have shifted with the rise of broadband and participatory media-making tools. Streaming audio and video, podcasting, video on demand, and other innovations have made overwhelming amounts of content available to consumers, including high-quality public media content. The popularity of "Frontline's" online presentation of their recent series, "Bush's War" shows that publics will seek out serious news online. Commercial and open source media sharing platforms have also allowed citizen media makers and nonprofit groups to craft their own responses to public issues. The challenge now is to protect the "pipes"--the delivery mechanisms for that content--and ensure public access to the Internet through universal wireless and high-speed broadband initiatives.

On April 17 the FCC will be holding a public hearing at Stanford University on the future of the Internet, examining claims that corporations like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast have moved to block the free flow of online content and endanger free speech. Members of the public can submit comments electronically.

New media reform struggles will require new maps of public telecom resources, like educational fiber-optic networks and community wireless initiatives. Join us on June 17 at Beyond Broadcast 2008: Mapping Public Media to learn more.

P.S.: Ask and ye shall receive--hours after posting this, I found the Broadband Census project. Plug your zip code to find local broadband options near you.