FCC Votes in Favor of Making Big Media Bigger,
Congress Must Slow Down Media Consolidation
December 21, 2007
By Lisa Bennett, Communications Director
On Dec. 18 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 to allow greater consolidation in media ownership, despite vocal opposition from Congress, the general public, and groups such as NOW. The newly-relaxed rules will open the door for a single entity to own both a newspaper, and a television or radio station in the same top-20 market. FCC Chair Kevin Martin, a conservative who is leading the agency's move toward deregulation, claimed that this is a "relatively minimal loosening of the ban," because it only affects the top 20 U.S. cities, where competition is assumed to be thriving. However, waivers may be easy to come by for big businesses interested in scooping up media outlets in smaller markets.
The two progressive commissioners who voted aginst the rule change spoke of conflicting interests between big media and the community's need for diverse viewpoints and local news coverage. In his dissenting statement Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein wrote, "[T]he law does not say we are to serve those who seek to profit by using the public airwaves. The law says we are to serve the public interest."
Adelstein added: "The public is concerned about the lack of responsiveness of their media outlets to what is happening in their local communities, their local artists, their local civic and cultural affairs. They are concerned that people of color and women own too few outlets to have their unique voices heard over the airwaves. They are furious about the level of sexual, violent and degrading material they are seeing and believe media consolidation has something to do with it."
Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle objected to the FCC's decision, and may act to overturn the rules before too much damage can be done.
For decades, NOW and the NOW Foundation have petitioned the FCC, advocating for greater opportunities for women and people of color in the media industry. Two months ago NOW Foundation President Kim Gandy testified at an FCC hearing in Washington, D.C., on media ownership and the responsibility of TV and radio broadcasters to serve their local communities.
When Congress returns for session in the New Year, NOW will be issuing an action alert calling on all women's rights supporters to write to their members of Congress, urging them to repeal these new rules that favor big business over a vibrant media marketplace.
If you haven't yet, sign up to receive NOW's action alerts.Links:
Photos of Rally for Better Media outside Oct. 31 FCC hearing
More rally photos
Photos from inside the FCC hearing
(All photos by Jacques-Jean Tiziou)
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