ACLU Calls for Preservation of Diversity In American Media Markets and Greater FCC Transparency

May 23, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today called on the Federal Communications Commission to publicly release a specific rule change, reportedly under discussion internally, that would relax media ownership regulations and permit greater corporate concentration and cross-ownership of the mass media. Public comment and open hearings are necessary before the FCC can proceed, the ACLU said..

“Monopolization may well erode the vibrant marketplace of ideas that is so essential to modern American democracy,” said Marvin Johnson, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “If the FCC is going to reduce competition in the industry, it should at least do so in an open, transparent and public way. The elimination of a diversity of opinions on the airwaves, on the Internet and in print must not be debated behind closed doors.”

Last year, the FCC issued an unspecific “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” on media ownership, but proposed no actual rule on which the public could comment. The ACLU’s concerns stem from reports that the specific rule, which remains locked away in the FCC’s offices, will permit huge media conglomerates to own most or all of the media outlets in any given market.

Media concentration has become, in recent years, an emerging debate as large corporations, such as the radio giant Clear Channel, are realizing economies of scale through seeking local monopolies.

And, although there may be a difference of opinion on whether media concentration automatically results in lack of diversity, the ACLU said, relaxation of the rules could have such a consequence and the public and Congress need to be able to examine and comment on the proposal.

The ACLU’s letter to the FCC can be found at:

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