National Civil Rights Coalition Opposes Changes To Media Ownership Guidelines

Media 05.27,03

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, expressed serious concern about the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) scheduled vote on June 2, 2003 on whether to lift important restrictions on media cross ownership.

In March 2002, the Leadership Conference partnered with Consumers Union in developing a set of principles for the FCC and Congress regarding media ownership rules. These principles were joined by: the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Congress of American Indians, National Council of La Raza, and National Partnership for Women & Families, and National Urban League.

The principles stated:

  • The rights of viewers and listeners, not media owners, are paramount.

  • Media ownership and programming should reflect the diversity of our nation.

  • Diversity of ownership and independent voices, not mere variety of programming, is the aim of the law.

  • Media must be committed to communities.

  • Media must serve the needs of democracy.

  • Media must not ignore controversy at the behest of advertisers and information dissemination must take precedence over commerce.

“We believe the Chairman of the FCC, Michael Powell, has focused the current debate over media policy on market efficiencies and technological development to the exclusion of promoting competition, a diversity of voices, and community engagement.” said LCCR executive director Wade Henderson. “Over the last several years, we have seen the disaster in radio that followed the 1996 Telecommunications Act. For example, the number of minority-owned radio stations has nose-dived.”

“The civil rights community’s forceful opposition to the FCC’s media consolidation marks an important milestone in our efforts to counter the rapid and radical restructuring of the communications industry, the dismantling of civil rights laws, and the undermining of our democracy by placing new barriers to the free exchange of ideas and information,” continued Henderson.

“American democracy requires a competitive media environment,” said Henderson. “A media market with diverse voices is critical to a civil rights agenda that ensures equity and democratic participation in areas vital to the health of our nation and our communities — education, economic opportunity, the environment, health care and political participation.”