Urban Politics #148: FCC Proposed Changes


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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CONTENTS:

  • FCC Proposed Changes
  • Licata-Compton Resolution On FCC Proposed Changes
  • FCC Public Hearing

FCC Proposed Changes

Since the 1996 Telecommunications Act deregulated of radio ownership
rules we have seen a national trend of massive media consolidation and
dramatically decreased competition.

In particular it has damaged local accountability and content diversity,
in part by shifting control and resources away from local programmers and
towards central managers, which had led to reductions in local news and
public affairs programming, and reduced access to the airwaves for local
musicians, community groups and public officials

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is now considering lifting
restrictions on further consolidation and cross ownership. This move will
seriously threaten existing media diversity by allowing further consolidation
of media ownership in an already highly concentrated market. The amount and
quality of news coverage in broadcast and print media across the country will
continue to shrink while windfall profits for a small handful of corporate
media owners will result.

I believe we will soon face the day when Seattle will find that its
largest radio stations, newspapers, television stations and even concert
venues, will be owned by three or two large companies. Already most of the
major commercial radio stations which used to be owned locally are not owned
by large corporations with little interest for the welfare of Seattle’s
residents.

The gradual disappearance of local in-depth news coverage has been a
prime example and result of this trend. With less coverage of local
political decision making the public remains blissfully ignorant of how their
tax dollars are being spent and how their civil rights may be compromised.
And the diversity of opinion on these matters does not reach the general
public.

The loss of localism also greatly harms Seattle’s cultural scene. For
instance, as our local music community finds outlets restricted because of a
less open competitive market for venues and airtime, fewer musicians and
other creative workers find employment. Meanwhile our public is denied a
diversity of music that often represents minority communities.

Licata-Compton Resolution On FCC Proposed Changes

I am sponsoring a walk-on resolution (co-sponsor is CM Jim Compton) for
this Monday’s Full Council Meeting supporting diversity in media ownership
and urging the Federal Communications Commission and the Congress to protect
content diversity and press freedom by retaining and strengthening existing
media ownership regulations, including regulations that limit the number of
stations one owner may hold.

Furthermore we are calling upon the Congress to exercise its oversight in
the area of federal communications policy through public hearings on media
ownership issues; and to pursue legislation aimed at protecting our
democratic media by prohibiting further media consolidation.

We recognize that freedom of the press and public access to diverse media
are prerequisites for a functioning democracy. And we need to remind the FCC
that the broadcast airwaves and the Internet are owned commonly by the
public, and should be managed to serve the public interest

FCC Public Hearing

It is critical that the Seattle City Council make this public statement
now because the proposed changes are moving quickly and FCC Commissioners
Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein will be holding a public hearing on
media consolidation at the Husky Union Building on the campus of the
University of Washington on Friday, March 7. Our resolution will be presented
at that time to the FCC.

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