FCC: What’s good for business is bad for democracy

It is strange when Congressional Democrats and Republicans actually unite to pass a seldom-used avenue of expressing disapproval of a government agency. Moreover, the National Rifle Association, Code Pink: Women for Peace, and the Conference of Catholic Bishops came together to fight one common cause. It is interesting to see who unites over the contentious issue of the Federal Communications Commission’s initiative to further deregulate the media industry. I hope that these alliances can withstand the three-pronged attack from the major media conglomerates, the White House and the FCC.
Although I admire the bipartisan effort to stop the new regulations, I don’t understand why they are trying to focus the debate simply on whether the cap should be at 35% or 45%. The more disturbing part of these new regulations is the idea of allowing newspaper-television station cross-ownership. To allow the information presented on Dateline to again be reprinted in the daily newspaper seems a bit much, not because it increases the credibility of the information, not because it is necessarily good, but because it is repeated in two places.
Moreover, the arguments against repealing the new regulations don’t make sense. One is that is that the rules needed to be updated. I will admit that there needs to be something done to bring the FCC into the 21st century, but that’s just an argument for new rules, not these rules. Another is that if the new FCC rules are not passed, then radio stations will be allowed to become giant evil monopolies of doom. While I can see the validity of this concern, I don’t understand why radio regulation and media convergence on all other fronts are inextricably tied to one another. Finally, consider the plight of the poor networks not being able to turn a profit when faced with competition from cable networks. Has anyone ever noticed how many network companies own cable channels too? Competition, even FCC induced competition, keeps the media in check. We can’t sacrifice that check because its easier to just put faith in the media’s ability to fix itself. For once, let’s not do something that is good for business. Stranger things have happened.

Elaine Ayo can be contacted at eayo@umsis.miami.edu.

September 30, 2003


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