Taking On Google’s News Monopoly

Bill BakerLast month, the Federal Trade Commission declined to take up antitrust charges against Google. The decision disappointed not only Google’s competitors, who charge the Internet search giant with monopolistic practices, but also consumer advocates who say that its search results favor Google’s business aims at the expense of the public.

One area where Google’s invisible hand was left without so much as a slap on the wrist is its Google News page, and the absence of government regulation may one day mean less news will be available online, rather than more. That’s the view, at least, of a distinguished media veteran who writes in The Nation that Google’s powerful online market position poses a threat to the marketplace of ideas.

“Imagine if a single company had the same sweeping and arbitrary power over print news distribution that Google wields over digital news distribution. Such a company would rightly be the subject of intense public and government scrutiny. Yet in dealing with Google, the FTC has largely decided to take the company’s motto, ‘Don’t be evil,’ at face value and let Google regulate itself,” declares William F. Baker, who founded and directs the Bernard L. Schwartz Center for Media, Public Policy and Education at Fordham University.

“We deserve better because news is not just a commodity; it’s a public trust in private hands,” says Baker, who recently spokes with CCC’s Chris Kenneally.

Bill Baker is a distinguished author, broadcast executive and journalist. During his twenty years as chief executive officer of public television station WNET, Channel 13 in New York City, Baker introduced the landmark program Charlie Rose, and oversaw the station’s transition to digital broadcasting. Before joining WNET, he was president of Westinghouse Television and chairman of their cable and programming companies. At Westinghouse, Baker introduced Oprah Winfrey as a talk show host.

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