44 members of the House of Representatives have joined with the chairs of three caucuses – the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus – to protest any move by the FCC to move on ownership deregulation in advance of dealing with the ownership diversity issue.
The letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski actually begins with a ringing endorsement of the broadcast medium, even while it advocates putting a halt to any more ownership consolidation.
The members wrote, “Vibrant public dialogue – facilitated by a diverse array of media outlets – has long been a cornerstone of American Democracy. Even more central to our national identity is our capacity to question, stand up, and speak out. No entity, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can be allowed to silence the voices of individual Americans and their patchwork of communities that hold this great country together. Being the primary source of news across America, broadcast media plays a vital role in informing and shaping public discourse. Further consolidation of this industry presents a serious and immediate threat to our democratic process.”
They noted the extremely low percentages of female and minority license ownership, and further observe that the most recent and very similar attempt to deregulate, by former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, failed to make it past the courts.
Little if anything has changed since the Commission last proposed such rule changes in 2007.
The concluded, “The recently released ownership report provides some long-absent data, but the numbers paint a bleak picture. The Commission has not adequately addressed the likely impact of any proposed rule changes on diversity, as the Third Circuit has repeatedly required of the Commission’s actions in this proceeding. We are concerned that already low levels of ownership will be diminished even further by the proposed rule changes. Further consolidation would harm the entire media system, but have a disproportionate impact on diverse owners and the communities they serve. For all of these reasons, we respectfully request that the Commission not proceed with its proposed rule changes at this time, and that it seeks further analysis and comment on its recently released data before it acts on its media ownership rules.”