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Groups Mobilize in Support of Media Diversity
Feature Story by Nathan Go - 6/21/2006Diversity of views in media is at the core of democracy, representatives from a broad alliance of consumer, civil rights, labor and media reform groups said in a briefing June 20.
A new online campaign, StopBigMedia.com, was launched during the event, a day before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was expected to discuss new rules that may allow for further consolidation of local media companies.
The groups participating in the event urged Congress and the FCC to reconsider the trend toward consolidation, which they blame for the deterioration in quality of programming and journalism in the U.S.
"Today, instead of local ownership with a diversity of views, we now have homogenized, cookie-cutter media divorced from local concerns," said Nancy Zirkin, Deputy Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
Zirkin said that while Latino Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans make up one-third of the U.S. population, they own less than two percent of the media industry. "This should be a national embarrassment," she said.
Gene Kimmelman, Vice President of Federal and Int'l Affairs for Consumers Union, said that there are false economic arguments being made in favor of media consolidation. He warned the public not to "be swayed" by these arguments but instead understand that local media can be profitable, too.
StopBigMedia.com's charter members are composed of diverse organizations including Free Press, Consumers Union, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Council of Churches, United Church of Christ, AFL-CIO, State PIRGs, and Parents Coalition.
The trend for consolidation of media ownership started in 1981 under the Reagan administration's deregulatory efforts, and has been continuing ever since.
In 2003, the FCC tried to relax media ownership rules that would allow for a significant consolidation of radio, television and newspapers across the country. However, the courts postponed the effective dates of the rules and asked the FCC for a rewrite.
StopBigMedia.com highlights some of the arguments in opposing the consolidation of media:
- Only a handful of media companies control today's television programs. The diversity of programs that are available has decreased as the companies' influence has increased.
- Media conglomerates are paying more attention to making profits with little accountability to the public interest.
- Public access to information and independent voices are threatened when diverse local media companies become consolidated.
- If current rules on media consolidation are eliminated, a few media conglomerates can dominate public discourse and turn local communities into "company towns."
Also participating in the June 20 briefing were Thurgood Marshall, Jr., consultant, Media and Democracy Coalition; Gary Flowers, VP of Public Policy, Rainbow/PUSH; Linda Foley, President, Newspaper Guild-CWA; Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president and CEO, Media Access Project; and Craig Aaron, communications director, Free Press.