Television and radio broadcasters get to use our public airwaves for free. It’s a great deal … for them, at least. For the rest of us, it’s just another corporate giveaway.
These broadcasters rake in billions in profits using our public property. And what do we the public get from them in return? Next to nothing.
What To Do
Tell the FCC: No more handouts to big media.
The original idea was to offer commercial broadcasters free access to our airwaves in exchange for programming that serves the needs of our communities. This is the core of the Federal Communications Commission’s public-interest bargain. But over the years broadcast industry lobbyists have trampled this social contract in their rush to maximize profits.
Instead of covering the issues communities say matter the most, broadcasters have shuttered their newsrooms, laid off journalists and aired cookie-cutter programming often produced by other stations.
Now the FCC is about to review its media ownership rules — including rules that promote localism, competition and diversity on the airwaves. These rules need to be strengthened and enforced. But the FCC has a track record of creating policies that cater to industry at the expense of the news people need:
- The agency is reportedly planning to re-introduce a Bush-era policy that would consolidate local media even further in the hands of a few corporate interests. This rule change would allow a single company to own a newspaper and a TV station in the same city.1
- The FCC has repeatedly neglected its responsibility to correct dramatic inequalities in the broadcast industry. A Free Press survey of broadcast licenses in 2007 showed women and communities of color to be grossly underrepresented among broadcast owners. Members of Congress and even the courts have repeatedly demanded action by the FCC, yet the agency has done next to nothing to fix this problem.2
- The FCC has turned a blind eye to “covert consolidation,” a practice in which corporations control two or three TV stations in the same community. Covert consolidation leads to copycat news programming and has left over 100 communities with few to no choices of local news broadcasts. The agency must strengthen its rules to protect the public from this harmful practice.3
It’s time for the FCC to address these serious problems once and for all. By signing this letter to the FCC, you’re helping Free Press launch a new initiative to reverse decades of bad policy:
Tell the FCC Chairman Not to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past
We need to put the public interest back into the public airwaves. It begins today with you.
P.S. This Thursday, the FCC will hold a public hearing on media ownership. Visit this page on Thursday morning to join the conversation: savethenews.org/atlanta
1. Katy Bachman, "Genachowski Trying to Keep Media Ownership Review Quiet," Adweek, Nov. 21, 2011: http://act2.freepress.net/go/7470?akid=3092.9451009.Isgw1X&t=9
2. Free Press letter to FCC Chairman Genachowski, Nov. 28, 2011: http://act2.freepress.net/go/7535?akid=3092.9451009.Isgw1X&t=11
3. John Eggerton, "FCC Media Bureau Denies Complaint Against Raycom in Honolulu, But Says Combo Violates 'Intent' of Rules," Broadcast & Cable, Nov. 27, 2001: http://act2.freepress.net/go/7536?akid=3092.9451009.Isgw1X&t=13