The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and subsequent court cases have chipped away at the regulations on ownership of media outlets set forth by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is currently debating whether or not to strip itself of the last remaining regulations and mainstream news sources have only sparsely reported or commented on this matter.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, warns that in this policy debate, “fundamental values and democratic virtues are at stake.” While media mega-corporations like Clear Channel Entertainment, FOX and ABC have argued that limitations on how many radio or television stations a company can own in one city is unconstitutional, further deregulation of the media market will actually result in undermining democracy.

If newspapers, radio stations and television networks are not protected from monopolization, dissenting viewpoints will be marginalized more than ever before and there will only be very few carbon-copy channels that citizens can turn to for information about activities in the government and the economy. A lack of diversity in media is contradictory to the idea of the freedom of the press, and the decision of how and what to report to the public will be made by big business interests, leading to corruption in the media and misinformation.

Unfortunately, the leadership of the FCC seems be unconcerned with the crisis media and democracy currently face and the impending limitation of access of information to the public. FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who is one of three Republicans currently serving on the commission, appears to have little interest in preserving media diversity, once commented that he had “no idea” what the concerns of public interest were. He also currently contends, “There was never a time when media was more concentrated than when it was the cleanest” arguing that consolidation supposedly leads to more decent programming. However, by “the cleanest” one can interpret this to mean that news reporting would be free from criticism of the big business domination in the industry, as it will be the corporate community, and not the public that will set the agenda and schedule of media.

Copps, who opposes Powell’s laissez-faire ideology, responded to his harangue against protection from monopolies saying, “While the participation of business representatives is essential, so is the input of consumers, labor, educational and religious, minority organizations and Americans who have never heard of the FCC.”

Legislation concerning media should allow as many people and organizations as possible the right to put forth news, entertainment and information in the publlic view. In addition, the public would benefit and learn more from a media that is made up of varied political, economic and cultural viewpoints rather than a narrow sector of the population.

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