FCC favors media moguls

The FCC plans to ease media ownership laws, not giving the public time to react.

In what appears to be to a hasty move to appease media conglomerates in the waning days of the Bush administration, the head of the Federal Communications Commission has been circulating plans to loosen the restrictions of the 1974 newspaper broadcasting cross-ownership ban. If realized, this would allow newspapers to buy broadcasting stations within the same market. The further deregulation of media ownership would follow other initiatives enacted by the FCC in the 1990s to allow a single corporation to own multiple media outlets, and give newspaper giants and media conglomerates even more control over information creation and distribution in a single city.

Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, wants to repeal the 1974 ban within the next two months, giving media giants one last favor from the FCC and Bush administration. This timetable seems too aggressive, and limits the amount of time industry experts would have to research the impacts of the plan. It also limits the time citizens and public advocacy groups would have to voice their opinion on the issue. Public dissonance was one of the reasons a similar plan didn’t pass in 2003, when some 3 million people voiced their oppositions to the FCC and then-chairman Michael Powell.

The lifting of regulations of media concentration has been long supported by media moguls and billionaires Rupert Murdoch and Sam Zell, who want an unregulated market to add more media outlets to their empires. Murdoch owns Fox News and Entertainment, MySpace and the Wall Street Journal while Sam Zell recently acquired the Tribune Company, which publishes major daily papers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. If Martin’s plan were to come to fruition, it would allow one corporation to own the daily newspaper, alternative newspapers, city magazines, the eight largest radio stations and the broadcast and cable television stations in a single city. For one entity to have control over nearly all avenues of communication in one market cripples the diversity of voices and opinions in the media.

The FCC and Martin’s quick scheme to further deregulate media concentration laws is a media corporation’s dream, but it severely hurts what the variety of news the public has available. Public interest should always be placed before corporate ambitions.