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Trump's FCC Turns Its Back On Broadcast Diversity

Free Press condemned the Federal Communications Commission on Monday for failing to prioritize broadcast diversity in the agency's quadrennial-review proceeding on media ownership.

The Trump FCC is considering changes to - or the elimination of - three primary rules: the local radio-ownership rule; the local television-ownership rule, and; the dual-network rule. Each was put in place to help fulfill the agency's central mandate: promoting localism, diversity and competition over the public airwaves.

"The Commission must preserve all three rules to protect the public from the harms of further runaway broadcast media consolidation," Free Press argues in submitted comments. "There is substantial evidence that media concentration has caused irreparable harm to the public, and Free Press members are still reeling from the harmful impacts of the Commission's most recent deregulatory efforts."

In 2017, the FCC determined that women own just 7 percent of FM radio stations, and people of color own less than 3 percent. The numbers for television stations are barely better.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has told the FCC in three previous rounds of litigation that before proceeding with rule changes the agency must first consider the impact those changes would have on diversity across the industry - something it has thus far failed to do.

"The FCC is weighing several strategies for deregulation, hoping to hand the nation's largest broadcast conglomerates the rule changes they demand so they can exert even more control over local radio and television," Free Press policy manager Dana Floberg says. "Even considering any of these proposals shows the agency's appalling disregard for broadcast-industry diversity and the benefits it brings to the public, which still depends on TV and radio stations for critical local news and information.

"If the FCC once again weakens its ownership limits, it would be rejecting its central mandate to promote diversity, localism and competition and ignoring the needs of underrepresented communities across the country. Giving more of the public airwaves to a few massive conglomerates isn't how you create a more diverse and democratic broadcast sector.

"The FCC launched this quadrennial review because it's required to. But it's done so without completing the analysis that the court mandated in three previous rounds of this fight. To charge ahead with more deregulation would be premature and destructive.

"The Trump FCC is clearly intent on abandoning the public-interest standard by ditching the remaining ownership rules and changing its definitions to serve a handful of powerful broadcast conglomerates. Any proposal that increases consolidation does a disservice to the public, and disproportionately harms disadvantaged groups, including poor communities and people of color. The FCC should retain the existing ownership rules and finally commit to conducting the court-mandated analysis that would allow it to accurately evaluate and promote diversity in broadcast ownership."

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Also:

"As of Tuesday morning, 882 sets of comments have been filed in the FCC's Quadrennial Review of broadcast ownership rules," All Access reports.

"Many of the comments are copy-and-paste filings with identical one-paragraph submissions from musicians offering general opposition to loosening the rules, warning that, 'If the commission changes the rules, many locally-owned stations are going to disappear . . . '

"[T]he Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council pointed to the 'embarrassingly low' level of minority and female ownership of broadcast licenses and opposed the loosening of ownership caps, contending that doing so would 'spell the end of the incubator program before it has a chance to succeed.'"

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on May 1, 2019


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