FCC media monopoly rules in place for good reason

The Federal Communications Commission appears intent on weakening media-ownership rules and compounding the mistake by ignoring its own troubling findings.

The commission's first-ever review, released Nov. 14, found the ownership of broadcast radio and television stations by women and minorities to be at single-digit percentages.

The FCC wants to aggravate this extraordinary lack of diversity by allowing the consolidation of newspapers and television stations or radio stations in the 20 largest markets.

The FCC found white ownership increased while minority ownership eroded. Blacks owned 1 percent of all commercial-television stations in 2007, and 0.7 percent in 2011. Asian ownership was at a half percent in 2011. Latino ownership increased a fraction to 2.9 percent. Female ownership of TV stations went from 5.6 percent to 6.8 percent.

These statistics shape news gathering and journalism, access to the airwaves and the mix of views available and presented.

Efforts by the FCC to weaken media-ownership rules have been knocked down by public opinion, Congress and the courts in the past. In 2011 the commission was directed by a federal appeals court to conduct a survey.

For the FCC's narrow purposes that box has been checked, because it wants to proceed without holding public hearings or formal reviews of the findings.

Craig Aaron, president of media watchdog Free Press, raised a pointed question: "Why is the FCC contemplating a giveaway to the nation's largest media conglomerates when the rest of the industry has turned away from the failed consolidation model?"

For a plan with no public support or purpose, Aaron notes, "… the main beneficiaries of this change would be News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch and Tribune Co.'s Sam Zell."

America is enriched by the diversity represented in its politics, media and culture. The FCC is moving in the opposite direction.

— The Seattle Times

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