While we argue over its exact limits, there’s no denying that Facebook and Google have incredible power to disseminate and control the flow of information. That has had implications across pretty much the entire scope of humanity, but one place where it stands out is in getting the news out there. And CNN’s head, Jeff Zucker, thinks the government should take steps to limit that power.
Zucker, delivering the keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, called on government regulators to examine Google and Facebook’s level of control over how news spreads across the internet and how it can decide what, if anything, goes in front of eyeballs:
“Everyone is looking at whether these combinations of AT&T and Time Warner or Fox and Disney pass government approval and muster, the fact is nobody for some reason is looking at these monopolies that are Google and Facebook. That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.”
Zucker has some skin in this game, of course. CNN is owned by Time Warner, and he makes mention of AT&T’s attempt to buy the company, which is currently facing objections from the Trump Administration, possibly due to CNN’s reporting on Trump and the administration. He’s also facing a larger problem, noting elsewhere in the speech that the average viewer of CNN on TV is 59, but the average viewer on mobile is 37. So where does a news network land in a world where everybody’s got the news in their pocket.
These are tougher questions and addressing Google and Facebook’s dominance won’t fix them. The internet has made it easier than ever to gather it and pick out the sources you most care about. If somebody was only watching CNN because they had no choice, and now can read their local newspaper more easily instead, no amount of government intervention can change that.