Media ownership experts: FCC must strengthen media ownership rules

The House Communications Subcommittee held a hearing on Sept. 25 on broadcast media ownership, which is currently regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with a stated goal of promoting “competition, localism, and diversity of voices in the public interest.” But even as the country grows more diverse, women and people of color are excluded from positions of control in the industry. The Subcommittee invited experts to give testimony on the FCC’s current and proposed broadcast media ownership rules.

Todd O’Boyle, Program Director of the Media and Democracy Reform Initiative at Common Cause highlighted the dangers of media consolidation on journalism: “Waves of mergers and consolidation – too often with the blessing of the Federal Communications Commission – have eroded the quality and quantity of local communications media, to the detriment of our electorate.” He lauded the FCC’s Joint Sale Agreement reforms – adopted last year – that prohibit TV stations from circumventing agency rules designed to promote media diversity, localism, and competition. Those reforms promote good jobs in the broadcast industry, while increasing diversity by enabling female and minority owners to purchase divested stations.  

“The present moment is one of opportunity,” he added, referring to the Subcommittee’s review of the FCC’s rules, “will the FCC – with your oversight – approve another slew of broadcast consolidations? Or will it go down a different path: one of diverse voices and an informed electorate, the path of local and diverse ownership?”

Michael Scurato, Vice President of Policy at the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), recommended that the Subcommittee – and Congress – urge the FCC to tighten media ownership rules. Promoting ownership diversity among traditional media outlets, he concluded, must be a top priority:

NHMC envisions a world in which broadcasters reflect the diversity of our population, and adequately serve the needs of all communities. Promoting diversity in broadcasting by encouraging the FCC to strengthen its media ownership rules under its existing regulatory 7 framework and perform the research and analysis necessary to create new diversity initiatives, as well as using your lawmaking power to reinstate the “minority tax certificate” are important steps towards achieving that vision.

Broadcasting Ownership in the 21st Century (House Communications Subcommittee, Sept. 25, 2015)

Testimony of Todd O’Boyle (Common Cause, Sept. 25, 2015)

NABET-CWA Commends FCC Vote to Strengthen Television Ownership Rules (Speed Matters, Apr. 1, 2014)

Testimony of Michael Scurato (NHMC, Sept. 25, 2015)