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11.08.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Media reform group urges major shift in broadcast policy

A media activist coalition has urged the FCC to create a major new shift in broadcast policy by opposing corporate broadcast conglomerates that ignore obligations to the local communities they are supposed to serve.

Led by the Consumer Federation of America and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law, the group urged the FCC to take a stand against media companies that profit from advertiser-driven “lowest common denominator” programming.

Marjorie Heins, coordinator of the Brennan Center’s Free Expression Policy Project, said the time for a major shift in federal broadcast policy has arrived.

The 50-page document, filed in response to the FCC’s “Notice of Inquiry on Broadcast Localism,” argues that media localism — serving the needs of communities for local news coverage and local cultural expression — is a fundamental principle of American broadcast policy. But under the FCC’s deregulation policies, the commercial interests of large conglomerates that dominate the media markets and effectively silence local voices eclipse community needs. The group recommends the following reforms to counter the negative impact of media consolidation and to build localism and diversity on the airwaves:

  • Assign more broadcast licenses to nonprofit community media, including youth media and low-power broadcasting.
  • Develop regulations to ensure that commercial broadcasters provide local groups and media producers with access to broadcast time and facilities.
  • Develop new initiatives for expanding racial diversity among broadcast licensees.
  • Establish mechanisms for supporting nonprofit community media, including a localism and diversity fund supported in part by licensing fees.

The full text of the group’s comments is available at www.fepproject.org/courtbriefs/fcclocalism.pdf/.

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