Seattle City Council speaks up for media diversity

Comments of Seattle City Councilmembers Nick Licata and Jean Godden to the FCC, 9 Nov 2007

Thank you, Commissioners, for offering us this opportunity to provide comments regarding the Federal Communication Commission’s proposed media ownership rules.

As we stated during hearings held last year on this matter, we firmly believe allowing corporations to own both a TV station and a newspaper in a single market is misguided, wrong, and a detriment to maintaining a vibrant democracy.

Community representatives and civic leaders in Seattle express practically no support for loosening media ownership caps or ending the cross-ownership ban.

There appears to be similar opposition nationally. According to Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, the public favors by a percentage margin of 57 to 30 laws that prohibit a corporation from owning both a newspaper and a TV station in any single city or media market.

It is hard for us to imagine someone denying the strength and success that diversity has brought our nation. For over 120 years, the U.S. has welcomed plurality, as symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. Fewer owners of media sources results in less diversity of opinion, which undermines the principles of our democracy.

Rather than facilitate less diversity of opinion, we should encourage more of it through increased media ownership by Native, Latino, African American, Asian, women, and other underrepresented voices. When media ownership becomes more diverse new ideas emerge, leading to a better quality of life for all Americans.

Some point out that today’s many sources of news, information, and entertainment indicate a more robust media landscape than in years past. But simply having more sources does not produce a greater variety of content. With fewer and fewer owners, content conforms to an agenda that is in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

The most recent election provides another example of our concern.
Many citizens rely upon a variety of media—newspapers, television, radio, internet—to learn about issues that affect their lives in order to cast informed votes.

Exposure to a range of opinions is diminished when relying upon voices emanating from different media outlets consolidated under single ownership. Having media outlets controlled by fewer people fosters uniformity of editorial opinion, thus stifling vigorous debate around public issues.

We urge you to join with Seattle and other cities across the U.S. in supporting the right of local communities to have more representation in the media by limiting, rather than increasing, media ownership concentration.

This, we believe, will be in the best interests of our democracy.

Sincerely,

Nick Licata, President
Seattle City Council

Jean Godden, Chair
Seattle City Council Energy and Technology Committee

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