Editorial: FCC Ruling is Just a Starting Point

Jun 9, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission last week voted, as expected, to significantly loosen restrictions on the ownership of TV stations and other media properties. While the voting is over, there is still an opportunity for the opposition to continue the battle in the Legislature, in the courts and at the ballot box.
Oddly, the very way the vote was rammed through the commission has energized opponents, many of whom were surprised by the velocity of the opposition and the strange bedfellows it brought together. We recognize that court decisions on ownership regulations provided the central impetus to the FCC’s actions, but we don’t agree that the decision that was approved was the way to go. Much more careful consideration must be given to the implications of this level of deregulation and its impact on both American broadcasting and American culture.
We also recognize that the broadcasting landscape has indeed changed. There are more choices for consumers and viewers than ever before, but the reality is that this cornucopia of programming is not available equally to all. There are many who still depend on over-the-air TV. And even those who get their TV through cable or satellite still use the major broadcast outlets more than any other media. From an industry point of view, issues of diversity, employment and sensitivity to local concerns are also at stake.
For all those reasons and others, it is more important than ever that those who did not support the vote, and the way the vote was handled, continue to speak out, loudly and effectively. The June 2 decision ushers in a critical phase of the struggle against industry deregulation and consolidation: Keeping the cause alive.
This is a battle that will take place on many fronts. Clearly, one of the most important is the legislative battle. It is a debate that will test the will of those on both sides of the issue, and one that in all likelihood will ultimately do more than the FCC’s maneuvering to decide the future of the media. The impending fight on Capitol Hill will help determine whether public interest or simply corporate profits become the basis of future decisions that will shape the media landscape.
The tactics available to those who oppose deregulation are familiar, but remain essential: Keep the heat on. File lawsuits where appropriate, or join in suits filed by others as a friend of the court. Contact key congressmen and senators. Work with activist groups. And in coming elections support those lawmakers and candidates who come out strongly against wide-open deregulation without any quid pro quo in terms of serving the public interest.
Now that Mr. Powell has had his say, the voices of dissent must keep their efforts moving forward. It’s up to the public and those in the industry who spoke out against the changes to keep the pressure on to ensure that the opposition view is heard and that the best interests of both business and the public are taken fully into consideration.