As if the proposed Comcast/NBC Universal merger just wasn’t enough, the nation’s big broadcasters are strapping on the feed bag, ready to engorge themselves with more tasty snacks of the public’s television and radio airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing its media ownership rules for the fourth time since 2000, and the National Association of Broadcasters is again asking the commission to ease up on the regulation.
Specifically, the NAB wants the FCC to eliminate rules restricting cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations, relax radio station ownership rules as well as rules restricting ownership of television stations in certain markets. Media watchdog group, Free Press, immediately petitioned the FCC, criticizing the NAB’s request, and noting that the commission has gone too far already in allowing more media company consolidation. Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright:
“The FCC’s media ownership rules are critical to ensuring that the public’s primary news and information sources do not become consolidated in the hands of a few companies. Moreover, the so-called efficiencies of consolidation have not materialized. Instead, the cost of consolidating has placed a number of companies that might otherwise be profitable in dire straits, resulting in disinvestment in newsgathering and job losses for journalists.
“We urge the Commission to resist industry pressures to further weaken ownership limits. Companies that have made poor business decisions should not be rewarded with permission to engage in even more media consolidation that would further injure competition and diversity among local media outlets. It is not the Commission’s job to protect industry profit margins. Rather, its role is to promulgate and enforce regulations designed to promote competition, diversity and localism so that the public interest is served.”
If the FCC lets broadcasters own just about every newspaper, television and radio station in one market, quality journalism will continue to suffer. We’ll have even fewer – if any – news stories about how the City Council is spending taxpayer money, and more gossip about Lindsay Lohan’s legal troubles. After all, to a media company looking after its bottom line, gossip sells – government doesn’t. And there will be fewer alternatives available for the kind of reliable information one needs to make good decisions in a democracy.
The Internet has yet to become a sufficient destination for local news. Besides, most people still get their news from television. Instead of informing viewers, broadcasters are spoon-feeding them entertainment disguised as “news,” with the result being too many people who know next to nothing about how their government works. That’s what rampant consolidation has brought us.
These broadcasters have stuffed themselves enough. Isn’t it time the FCC put them on a diet?
Reposted with permission from the LA Media Reform.