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The Year in First Amendment Rights: Media Consolidation and Free Speech

James Tucker,
Washington Legislative Office
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January 8, 2008

Direct censorship of broadcast media has been fueled by a more indirect but increasing threat to the marketplace of ideas on the public airwaves: media consolidation.

Currently, a handful of large multinational corporations including Time Warner, Viacom and News Corp control most of the television and radio stations in the United States. In nearly half of the largest radio markets, the three largest corporations control 80 percent of the audience. Just last week, in a 3 to 2 vote, the FCC adopted FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s proposal to relax a rule prohibiting a company from owning both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city. The Commission quickly did so by limiting the notice and comment period on the rule, in spite of an outcry from Capitol Hill to delay the action to allow further consideration of its impact on the market.

Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein should be given a shout out for courageously opposing the Chairman’s ill-advised scheme to give the few media conglomerates complete control over the public airwaves.

Of course, the fact that the FCC is pandering to those conglomerates is clearest in looking at the impact on women and minorities: While America’s minority population is growing, minorities represent a mere eight percent of radio and three percent of television station owners. Women only own 3 percent of radio stations and fuve percent of television stations. We are looking forward to working with members of Congress to reverse the FCC’s ill-advised decision.