Licata on FCC's Proposed Changes

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by Nick Licata

Since the 1996 Telecommunications Act deregulated of radio ownership rules we have seen a national trend of massive media consolidation and dramatically decreased competition.

In particular it has damaged local accountability and content diversity, in part by shifting control and resources away from local programmers and towards central managers, which had led to reductions in local news and public affairs programming, and reduced access to the airwaves for local musicians, community groups and public officials

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is now considering lifting restrictions on further consolidation and cross ownership. This move will seriously threaten existing media diversity by allowing further consolidation of media ownership in an already highly concentrated market. The amount and quality of news coverage in broadcast and print media across the country will continue to shrink while windfall profits for a small handful of corporate media owners will result.

I believe we will soon face the day when Seattle will find that its largest radio stations, newspapers, television stations and even concert venues, will be owned by three or two large companies. Already most of the major commercial radio stations which used to be owned locally are not owned by large corporations with little interest for the welfare of Seattle's residents. The gradual disappearance of local in-depth news coverage has been a prime example and result of this trend. With less coverage of local political decision making the public remains blissfully ignorant of how their tax dollars are being spent and how their civil rights may be compromised. And the diversity of opinion on these matters does not reach the general public.

The loss of localism also greatly harms Seattle's cultural scene. For instance, as our local music community finds outlets restricted because of a less open competitive market for venues and airtime, fewer musicians and other creative workers find employment. Meanwhile our public is denied a diversity of music that often represents minority communities.


I am sponsoring a walk-on resolution (co-sponsor is CM Jim Compton) for this Monday's Full Council Meeting supporting diversity in media ownership and urging the Federal Communications Commission and the Congress to protect content diversity and press freedom by retaining and strengthening existing media ownership regulations, including regulations that limit the number of stations one owner may hold.

Furthermore we are calling upon the Congress to exercise its oversight in the area of federal communications policy through public hearings on media ownership issues; and to pursue legislation aimed at protecting our democratic media by prohibiting further media consolidation.

We recognize that freedom of the press and public access to diverse media are prerequisites for a functioning democracy. And we need to remind the FCC that the broadcast airwaves and the Internet are owned commonly by the public, and should be managed to serve the public interest


It is critical that the Seattle City Council make this public statement now because the proposed changes are moving quickly and FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein will be holding a public hearing on media consolidation at the Husky Union Building on the campus of the University of Washington on Friday, March 7. Our resolution will be presented at that time to the FCC.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey