FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein is deeply concerned with proposed further media deregulation, and well he should be:
- FCC Chairman Michael Powell has vowed to overhaul these rules by June 2. A bipartisan group of 15 U.S. senators recently asked him to hold off on any changes until the FCC discloses its plans publicly so that Congress and the public can respond. Chairman Powell declined, announcing he will go forward despite these concerns.
The FCC’s media ownership rules are designed to prevent individual companies from exerting too much control over what we see, hear and read. Broadcasters use public airwaves, and by regulating ownership, the FCC ensures that citizens can access a wide range of news, information and programming, including diverse viewpoints. Relaxing these rules would affect every user of television, newspaper, radio, the Internet, cable or satellite.
These rules today make it difficult for one company to own both a newspaper and a TV station serving the same community. They also cap the number of TV or radio stations that one owner can control in a single area, as well as the number of TV stations that one company can own nationwide. Another rule bars the four major TV broadcast networks from merging with one another.
….Evidence shows that television and newspapers are by far the most important sources of local news and public affairs information. Suppose your local newspaper and TV station merged, then bought other media outlets nationwide. The new company would achieve economies of scale and greater profitability. But would its sheer size and centralization of focus divert it from meeting the community’s local needs? Would it lead to greater homogenization of programming? Would the company influence the slant of local news reporting?
….The structure of the media affects more than just the price of ketchup. Control of the media affects the vibrancy of political and civic discourse — what the U.S. Supreme Court has called the “uninhibited marketplace of ideas.” This market affects the very health of our democracy.
….The relaxation of similar rules for radio shows how quickly rule changes can alter an industry’s structure. In 1996, Congress relaxed radio ownership rules, prompting an unprecedented wave of consolidation. Radio conglomerates now centralize broadcasting from remote headquarters and pump homogenized playlists to stations across the country.
….EXPRESS YOUR VIEW
What: Public hearing on FCC media ownership rules, sponsored by the University of San Francisco’s Media Studies Department, Stanford University’s Department of Communication, UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Hastings College of the Law’s Communications and Entertainment Law Journal. Presentations by FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein and others, followed by question-and-answer period.
When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Legislative chamber, second floor, San Francisco City Hall, Van Ness Avenue and Grove Street. [SF Chronicle]
If you are in the Bay Area tomorrow, please attend and make your concerns heard – more consolidation: muy malo.