Block the FCC’s Media Ownership Rule

Categories: Advocacy Letter

Recipient: U.S. Senate

Dear Senator:

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, urges you to support efforts during consideration of the FY 2004 Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary appropriations bill that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using funds in the bill to implement itsrecent decision to relax media ownership rules. The FCC’s media ownership order focused on market efficiencies and technological development to the exclusion of promoting competition, a diversity of voices, and local community engagement. The FCC must not be allowed to move forward with these changes.

The 180 member organizations of the LCCR coalition believe in the “free market of ideas.” We also believe that the health of our nation’s democracy depends on the continued existence of a diversity of viewpoints in the public domain. Diversity of voices, not merely a variety of programming, is essential, which is why LCCR member organizations, including groups like the NAACP, NOW, National Council of La Raza, NAPALC, NCAI and the National Partnership for Women and Families, strongly oppose the FCC’s decision to relax the rules that have historically restricted the nation’s largest media conglomerates from growing even bigger.

Prior to the FCC’s June 2nd order, no TV/newspaper mergers were allowed, except where a firm was failing or in those few instances where combinations had already occurred and were grandfathered. Under the new FCC order, TV/newspaper mergers will be allowed in about 200 markets, representing 98 percent of the population. The overwhelming majority of these markets is already concentrated and will become much more so as a result of the FCC’s action. Indeed, approximately 90 percent of markets where mergers would be allowed under the new FCC order are already concentrated in their total number of major sources of local news.

We have already seen the danger of media consolidation. After the passage of ’96 Telecommunications Act, for example, media giant Clear Channel Communications went from 40 to approximately 1200 radio stations. Instead of local ownership with a diversity of views, we now have homogenized, cookie-cutter media divorced from local concerns. In addition, minority ownership in TV and radio has dropped substantially at a time when these populations are growing. People of color represent less than 4 percent of radio and TV owners. Latinos own less than 2 percent of radio and less than 0.1 percent of TV stations.

The FCC’s decision to relax the rules threatens the likelihood of getting diverse viewpoints through the airwaves. The airwaves belong to the people, not to big business. Congress needs to step in to protect the airwaves against the takeover of large media conglomerates. Accordingly, we are asking your support to repeal the FCC’s recent decision to ease media ownership restrictions. If you have any questions, or need further information, please contact Brian Komar, LCCR Director of Strategic Affairs, at 202/466-1885, or Nancy Zirkin, LCCR Deputy Director, at 202/263-2880.

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson, Executive Director

Nancy Zirkin, Deputy Director