"FCC walked away from the public interest oversight it was established to do"

The FCC recently released hundreds of pages of their two-year long review of US media.  It amounts to the most substantial overview  in decades.

If you have not heard about it, you already understand some of the problems but including a focal point of the report, the increasingly neglected coverage of local news by an ever concentrated cadre of media owners. 

The report is quite a tome at 360 pages.  Because I'm still absorbing it, myself, in lieu of coverage, I'll refer you to "On The Media" audio reporting of the FCC's analysis, below, and the working group's index page for downloading "The Information Needs of Communities" in MS WOrd, PDF, or text format.

Correction: I'll refer you to On The Media's page, "FCC Report says Local Reporting in Crisis," since the audio embed code they provided last week is no longer functional.


My immediate interest, instead, goes to a separate clip provided by OTM's reporters of an interview with one of the FCC Commissioners about the disappearance of the agency's duty to public service.  Again, OTM has disabled the capacity to embed the audio clip, which can be heard on their page, "Is the FCC Too Weak?".

FCC Commissioner Micahel Copps says the recommendations proposed in the FCC report are far too narrow, and that while the FCC can enact and enforce solutions to the numerous problems highlighted, it is currently not acting on the authority it has.

Because I consider the disappearance of the public service oversight function from the FCC's agenda one of the most critical detriments responsible for our shared 'news' media wasteland, I've transcribed some of the interview in order to help urge you to read the report or at least to listen to the interview.

Remember, this is a current FCC Commissioner speaking, telling us to make his Agency serve the public interest, once again.

They knew that democracy depended upon a vibrant information inifrastructure. That was the theory behind allowing broadcasters teh free use of the public spectrum in return for the quid pro quo of serving the public interest and providing news and information. That's as American as apple pie.

What's has been ahistorical about it is this 'just let the market do it and everyting will be fine' and as a result of that deregulatory philosophy and as a result of all the megaconsolidation we have gone through in recent years we find newsrooms shuttered, investigative journalism on life support, and we can't just wait around in some hapless hope that the internet is somehow magically going to fix this.  Because there are many signs right now that the internet is headed down the same troublesome roads that did so much damage to traditional media.


Around the 1970s, when broadcasters realized that news operations could be profit centers, any real sense of public service disappeared.. Anywhere in this report is there mention of reinvigorating the public interest

Copps: The Commission has walked away from the public interest oversight it was established to do, and we used to do to at least some extent."

They knew the FCC was there, they nkew they had made an agreement to do news and information, that was the price they paid. So there are things we can do and we have not taken away a license on public interest  grounds in 30 years. and its time to get serious.   And I think if the FCC was serious, if it was in a position where it actually put a licensee on probation for a year or so, until they cleaned up their act, I think that word would go forth pretty quickly, and I think it would have some very salutary effects on the quality and quality of news and information produced for American viewers and listeners.

I'd ask you, in front of this weekend when Americans take the time to celebrate the valued and once highly-vaunted independence of these United States, to consider how we retake the ever so-critical media that is necessary to informing the electorate.  How can it be freed --even some of it-- from the commercial interest holding us hostage to the agenda of shareholder primacy and maximising ad revenues, only?

I think we must enforce the public service role of the agency that has forsaken its duty.

A happy and fulfilling Fourth of July celebration to you in the meantime!

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Check out this article at Columbia Journalism Review.

Who Owns What

Look up: News Corp, Viacom, General Electric, Time Warner, etc.