Hold FCC Accountable for Diverse and Independent Media

Categories: Advocacy Letter

U.S. Senate Commerce Committee

View a pdf of this letter with endnotes here

March 20, 2017

Hold FCC Accountable for Diverse and Independent Media

Dear Member, Senate Commerce Committee:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 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, we write to thank you for your vigilant exercise of oversight over the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Your oversight hearing questions and letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai are crucial to ensuring that Americans will benefit from a robust and independent media, essential to our country’s democratic process. We urge you to continue to hold the FCC accountable so that the American people are not left with a consolidated, monopolistic, non-representative media. 

A vibrant marketplace of ideas stands upon two mutually-reinforcing pillars:  freedom from government censorship and a competitive multifaceted marketplace that represents a wide range of viewpoints.  A competitive and diverse media is a strong hedge against censorship and freedom from censorship helps generate a diversity of views.  But the current state of media ownership in no way represents the full diversity of our nation. The country is now debating questions with life and death consequences in the communities The Leadership Conference represents, and yet people from these communities control almost none of the media outlets where the political debates are taking place.  We believe that Chairman Pai should commit to a careful consideration of the media ownership rules and forthcoming media mergers over which the FCC exercises jurisdiction.

The structural media ownership rules established by the FCC are a content-neutral, pro-competitive, First Amendment-friendly means to ensure that a wide range of viewpoints and perspectives are heard.  Chairman Pai has indicated to a U.S. Court of Appeals that he intends to take up petitions that, if granted, would reverse FCC decisions from last year and permit massive media consolidation on the local and national level.  Such a result would create precisely the wrong result, further restricting diversity and heightening the likelihood that even fewer voices reach the public.

While Chairman Pai agreed at the recent Senate oversight hearing that adequate media ownership data is a predicate to informed FCC decisionmaking, we believe he must do more.  The Chairman should also commit to a fact-based consideration of the FCC’s media ownership rules and to prepare, publish and seek comment on an analysis of any proposed change’s impact on media diversity before a decision is made.  Failure to take these steps has led the federal courts to invalidate the FCC’s previous media ownership decisions multiple times.

We commend your leadership in standing up for the First Amendment and preserving the freedom of journalists and broadcasters from government pressure. We urge you to hold the FCC accountable for ensuring our nation continues to benefit from a media environment that provides an example to the world.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Leadership Conference Media/Telecommunications Task Force Co-Chairs Cheryl Leanza, United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc., at 202-904-2168 or cleanza@alhmail.com, or Michael Macleod-Ball, American Civil Liberties Union, at (202) 675-2309 or mmacleod@aclu.org or Corrine Yu, Leadership Conference Managing Policy Director at 202-466-5670 or yu@civilrights.org.


Wade Henderson
President &CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President