PIGs Want All Stakeholders to Be Heard (That Is, the Ones They Can Coach)

by Mike Wendy on June 29, 2011

Yesterday, a number of “public interest” lobbying groups called on the FCC to hold field hearings on the proposed AT&T / T-Mobile acquisition.  Even though the record is replete with online comments (something they’ve made sure of), they say the FCC must go further and hold the hearings because…

…as the Commission realizes, online participation is not enough—particularly when millions of Americans do not have adequate broadband access. Therefore, public hearings will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to provide their input directly to the Commission.

I guess the gaming of the FCC through thousands of form letters from these groups isn’t enough (or, maybe it’s implicit recognition that those letters are largely not credible – who knows?). Now, even though the FCC has tons of input, the entrenched “public interest” lobbyists want another forum in which all stakeholders can speak (that is, the ones that they can coach).

We’ve seen this TV show before.  You know, it’s rerun season.  One similar field hearing held last summer, involving the Comcast / NBC-U merger – an event that some at the FCC thought was “unusual” – produced a well-rehearsed parade of horribles, directed by many of the same groups noted above.

In general, these stage shows aren’t designed to illuminate any given issue.  Rather, they’re tools to embarrass, blame and punish.

They’re also a ripe opportunity to profit.

If the hearing goes through, the “grassroots” participants at the proposed event will more than likely be highly organized by highly paid ($400+ an hour) inside the beltway bandits (sort of like a couple of the parties mentioned in this recent story).  The “public interest” groups and their organizers have made tens-of-millions of dollars doing this over the past 15 years.  With such growth in the communications industry, it has proven to be a steady stream of income.

I’m not complaining about that, of course.  The profit motive is a powerful thing.  What gets under my skin, though, is this recurring, 700-pound gorilla of a fact: The groups who say they represent the little guy at these shows actually are working for…umm, how shall I say it…the Corporate Man.  Profit incarnate.

What’s even more ironic is that they can only do these events by exploiting the very people they claim to be protecting; they’re fodder for the show – sort of like those trial lawyers who make millions of dollars in class actions suits, but the little guy who might actually have suffered gets only pennies on the dollar at the end of the day for his injuries (if there are in fact injuries…you can never be too sure with the plaintiff’s bar involved).

Nice gig if you can get (and stomach) it.

What would be nicer is if reporters started challenging some of those groups on who’s really behind their messaging and why. They owe it to all stakeholders, especially the little guy.




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