Civil and Human Rights Coalition Decries FCC Rollback on Democratic Participation

WASHINGTON – Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to gut the Lifeline program and to limit media ownership rules:

“Too many people in the United States still lack access to communications services that make equal opportunity and democratic participation possible. Today, the FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, took the nation in the wrong direction with two votes that will limit the sources of news and information for some of the nation’s most vulnerable communities.

Taken together, today’s decisions represent a major rollback in civil rights and a blow to our democracy. One proposal would gut Lifeline, the program dedicated to bringing phone and internet service within reach for people of color, low-income people, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities, with particularly egregious consequences for tribal areas. The other eliminates several rules promoting competition and diversity in the broadcast media, undermining ownership chances for women and people of color.

Congress must act to stop the next power grab by the FCC, which involves the national TV cap that limits how much of a national audience a TV owner can reach. This cap remains on the books because Congress set it in statute. The FCC’s chairman has targeted the cap for rollback despite his Republican colleague’s position that the rule is within Congress’ jurisdiction alone. Robust oversight is needed to keep Chairman Pai to his promise to hew to the law.

When the rules fail to ensure media access by all members of society, civil rights are denied. When media policies fail, equal opportunity and democratic participation are compromised. Congress can’t let this happen on its watch.”

Other groups have also spoken out against today’s vote:

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit