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.
In February 2003, the Project For Excellence in Journalism, in collaboration with the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, released the results of a poll documenting the frightening fact that the great majority of Americans, 72 percent, have heard “nothing at all” about the current FCC media cross-ownership debate and that only 4 percent of Americans had heard “a lot about the issue.”
As a result, the musicians write:
- In a recent speech you referred to your critics as “noisemakers” using the “usual alarmist political attacks designed just to prevent change.” With all due respect, we may be sounding an alarm but we are not alarmist noisemakers. We are the concerned citizens and small business owners whose welfare you are charged to protect. We ask for your respect and protection.
We believe the record demonstrates both the value of existing media ownership rules and the dangers in permitting widespread consolidation of ownership. We also believe the FCC has been negligent in listening to important stakeholder groups, like musicians, recording artists and radio professionals, to ensure their testimony is on the record. The de facto boycott of field hearings by you and Commissioners Abernathy and Martin makes us question how interested some commissioners are in understanding the public’s interest in these matters. Finally, a refusal to allow Congress and the public to view and debate your specific proposal would be a tremendous disservice to the American public and the citizens who depend on these media structures for their livelihoods.
We strongly urge you to give the public a true voice in these policies, which will forever alter the way citizens receive their news, information and entertainment
Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby, Neil Diamond, John Doe, Don Henley, Indigo Girls (Amy Ray and Emily Saliers), Billy Joel, Lenny Kaye, Toby Keith, Ian MacKaye, Ray Manzarek, Ellis L. Marsalis, Jr., Mya, Tim McGraw, Paul D. Miller, Sam Moore, Thurston Moore, Stevie Nicks, Joan Osborne, Van Dyke Parks, Pearl Jam, Sandy Pearlman, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Kevin Richardson, Patti Smith, Stephan Smith, Michael Stipe, Tom Waits, Jennifer Warnes, Saul Williams, and Nancy Wilson.