Media consolidation...

It's not just for broadcast media any more. With their acquisition of Knight Ridder, McClatchy will control most of North and South Carolina's major daily newspapers:

The McClatchy Co. will become the major media player in the Carolinas and the nation's second-largest newspaper company by paying $4.5 billion in cash and stock for Knight Ridder, parent of The State.

The combined company will have seven newspapers in North Carolina and South Carolina, including the three largest. Nationwide, McClatchy will own 32 daily newspapers and roughly 50 nondaily publications, making it second to Gannett in the industry.

McClatchy also will acquire The Charlotte Observer and The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News from Knight Ridder. The Sacramento, Calif.-based company already owns newspapers in Beaufort, Hilton Head Island, Rock Hill and Raleigh.

While some are concerned about consolidation eliminating competition, others argue that the changing media landscape will compensate:

Randy Covington, director of USC's IFRA Newsplex, said there are more sources today for news than ever before, referring to the proliferation of Web sites, blogs, podcasts and other nontraditional media.

In the old days, with two newspapers competing in the same town, consolidation was a problem, Covington said. Today, when anyone with a computer can be a publisher, newspapers have more competition, he said.

Who knew that blogs would have such an unintended consequence? And it sounds like bloggers have their work cut out for them if they are to provide alternative viewpoints and competition for giant corporate-run media empires.

Similar logic is being used to justify resurrecting the AT&T monopoly of yore. The company says that nowdays phone companies have plenty of competition from the internet, cable providers, and satellite TV (as they move into the video business) so it's no longer a valid concern.

Others are concerned that new technology and AT&T's control over large swaths of the internet backbone could lead to new types of anti-competitive behavior and are calling on Congress to impose a "network neutrality" requirement before allowing the AT&T/BellSouth merger to proceed.

For an old guy like me, who can still remember two independent, locally owned daily newspapers and three independently owned local network affiliates back when "cable" was something you used to winch your car out of the ditch and "google" had something to do with geeky math, all of this consolidation and "digital convergence" stuff can get confusing at times.

As fast as things move these days and as complicated as all the technology has become, sometimes I wonder if the FCC is up to the task of regulating it or if they are as befuddled as me.