CONTU: Dissent of Commissioner Hersey

The country has lately seen an alarming trend toward the concentration of economic power in all the communications industries. One company dominates telephonic communication. One company (IBM) dominates the computer hardware field, while three others (Burroughs, Honeywell, and Sperry-Univac) join with TBM to manufacture over 85 percent of large-scale computers. One company (Xerox) dominates photocopying, and, again, three other companies (IBM, Kodak, and 3M) outstrip all others. Three networks dominate television. There are now but six major film distributors. Paperback publishing has become the backbone of the book industry, and there are now but seven leading paperback lines. Industrial conglomerates are buying up these communications leaders horizontally: e.g., Gulf and Western owns both Paramount Pictures and Simon and Schuster, which in turn owns Pocket Books.

If there are social benefits to our nation, as we have always believed, in pluralism, in diversity, in lively competition in the marketplace, and in the rights of the individual to maximum freedom of choice within the limits of the social contract and, above all, to maximum freedom of speech, then this increasing concentration of corporate power in that most sensitive area in a democracy – the area of communication from one human being to another, from leaders to citizens and vice versa-should surely be a matter of greatest concern.

John Hersey was an amazingly forward thinker. He wrote this in 1978. His larger argument was that copyright is unneccessary for computer programs. If only we had listened…

CONTU: Dissent of Commissioner Hersey