Today a letter co-signed by a bewilderingly diverse list of musicians (Toby Keith and Ian MacKaye?) was sent to FCC's chairman Michael Powell. The letter urges the FCC to grant Congress and the public a full opportunity to review any proposed changes of media ownership rules before they are enacted. The rules under consideration currently prevent large media companies - newspaper chains, radio conglomerates, TV networks, cable owners - from further consolidating the media.
!n response to Powell's insistence that the FCC's decision be based on "empirical evidence" and not on anecdotes or hearsay, the musicians cite a list of data-driven reports that articulate the dangers of eliminating these ownership caps. The text of the letter and the reports are found on the Future of Music Coalition's site:
- Empirical Evidence
In November 2002, the Future of Music Coalition released a well-researched and data-driven study of the effects of radio consolidation on citizens and musicians. This 150-page document presents compelling evidence that radio consolidation has resulted in:
- Reduced marketplace competition
Reduced programming diversity and the homogenization of playlists
Reduced public access to the airwaves for local programming
Reduced public satisfaction with listening options
In December 2002, the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Department for Professional Employees/AFL-CIO released a critique of the twelve FCC studies which, according to an FCC press release, purported to have "examined the current state of the media market place." The Center for Economic and Policy Research used the same data sets to raise serious questions about the impact of concentration to date on diversity of news and entertainment. The report indicates that there is little basis for believing that substitution between types of media will offset any negative effects from concentration in a specific medium. The FCC studies also neglected to consider the extent to which ownership concentration may affect the ability of various interest or political groups to reach a wider public with their views. This is an extremely important issue in a democracy.
In February 2002, the Project for Excellence in Journalism released the results of the largest examination ever undertaken of local television news in the United States to deconstruct what local TV news offers citizens and to examine what kind of content viewers preferred. The analysis was an examination of the tendencies of ownership structures. The findings - an analysis of 172 newscasts, some 23,000 stories, over five years - suggest that ownership type does make a difference. Among the findings:
- 1. Smaller station groups overall tended to produce higher quality local newscasts than stations owned by larger companies-by a significant margin.
2. Network affiliated stations tended to produce higher quality newscasts than network owned and operated stations-also by a large margin.
3. Local ownership offered some protection against newscasts being very poor, but did not encourage superior quality.