FCC Takes Its First Shot

One of the first high-profile critiques of the Federal Communication Commission’s reports on media ownership was delivered yesterday from a conglomerate of communication unions. It refuted many of the FCC’s conclusions about potential relaxation of ownership rules, and called media deregulation “disastrous.”

The rebuttal was delivered by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It was sponsored by several communications unions including the AFL-CIO, and the Communication Workers of America. The CEPR director Deal Baker clearly stated that ad business as well as creative jobs was at stake. Overall, the FCC’s studies, when taken as a whole, “suggest that concentration in the media industry does pose a problem in maintaining a diverse flow of entertainment and information for individuals, as well as reasonably priced advertising options for businesses,” Baker said.

Other union heads concurred. Said Tom Carpenter, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists national director of broadcast. “The free flow of information and ideas is central to our democracy. Deregulation of the broadcasting industry has led to a disastrous consolidation of media, which erodes localism as well as diversity of music and editorial perspective.”



The FCC will hold hearings to take feedback on its voluminous series of reports on media ownership delivered in November. The more formal rebuttal to those reports, which strongly favored less restriction on media ownership, Baker’s report “Democracy Unhinged,” concludes that the FCC studies raise “serious questions” about the impact of concentration on diversity of news and entertainment.”

Baker claims that the FCC evidence for the lack of effect consolidation has on media, in some cases demonstrates the opposite of what the FCC summary suggests. Baker leaned heavily on a 2000 report from FCC staffer J.Waldfogel called “Consumer Substitution Among The Media,” which found less differentiation between types of media as news sources, and that, in fact, if individuals receive less news from one source they are likely to receive less from all sources.

“An earlier study by Waldfogel also makes the case that media concentration has a negative impact on the quality of local news and in turn, on participation in local government, civic affairs and voting,” Baker stated. “That study found that readers view national newspapers (the New York Times) as a substitute for local daily newspapers, and in markets with greater increases in Times circulation, educated consumers purchase local papers less and vote less in local elections as Times penetration grows.”

Baker also cited a study by the State of the American Newspaper Project of the American Journalism Review (1998) which determined that there has been a significant decline in reporting about state government activities and therefore in the ability of citizens to be informed about government actions and their likelihood to vote.

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