Did you know that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to review its ownership rules every four years and "determine whether any of such rules are necessary in the public interest as the result of competition?"
Yep, it's true. Remember the movie Groundhog Day? Some DC policy stuff definitely feels like deja-vu all over again. That's cool -- we're still honored to be a part of an FCC's Media Ownership Workshop which takes place at 9 AM tomorrow (Tuesday, November 3). Our very own Education Director, Kristin Thomson, will talk to the Commission's Media Bureau about the importance of data collection and analysis in determining the framework for the FCC's 2010 ownership proceedings. Also participating are Ken Ferree (Senior Fellow, The Progress and Freedom Foundation), Cheryl Leanza (Policy Director, The Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ), Andy Schwartzman (President and CEO, Media Access Project, on behalf of Prometheus Radio Project) and S. Derek Turner (Research Director, Free Press). You can watch it live right here.
Past FCC media ownership proceedings have focused on the number of media outlets a single entity could own in a given market, as well as limits to cross ownership of media -- like, whether the dominant television station could own the largest newspaper (or vice-versa). Again, the FCC looks at their rules every four years to see how they're doing in regard to their overall goals of localism, competition and diversity.
FMC's concern has traditionally been the radio marketplace, which has seen tremendous consolidation in station ownership since the aforementioned Telecom Act. Before Congress relaxed previous restrictions on radio station ownership, the radio industry was comprised of small, "mom-and-pop" broadcast companies, with a few regional companies mixed in. By the start of this decade, however, radio had become an industry defined by national and multinational media conglomerates, large regional companies, and an ever-shrinking group of mom-and-pops. This has, in turn, resulted in homogenized playlists and incredible obstacles for artists seeking airplay -- particularly local and independent acts. Check out our report, False Premises, False Promises, for more detail on the effects of consolidation on the radio industry.
FMC is proud that our efforts have helped prevent further ownership consolidation in radio, but there's a lot more that can be done to uphold the FCC's stated goals of localism, competition and diversity. As Kristin will explain tomorrow, in order to create and implement rules that make sense in today's evolving (and increasingly digital) marketplace, the FCC needs to have more and better data. Otherwise, it's next to impossible to tell whether its policies are having their intended effect -- or any effect at all.
We'll be reporting back from the proceedings, but remember, you can always watch it live at the FCC site tomorrow.