Nine members of the United States Senate have collaborated on a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski objecting to easing cross-ownership restrictions, particularly given the woeful state of minority and female ownership of broadcast facilities.
“We strongly believe that maintaining robust diversity of media ownership is fundamental to preserving the strength of our democracy,” they wrote. “Broadcast media continues to be the primary source, by far, for local news in communities across the nation. When ownership of local television and radio stations in concentrated in too few hands, diversity is threatened, and when programming decisions are made by large media companies from hundreds of miles away, coverage of local news can become either diluted or neglected.”
The letter came from Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Al Franken (D-MN) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
They noted that the FCC is tasked by Congress to promote localism and diversity. But the FCC’s own statistics confirm that the percentage of female and minority licensees is far below their percentage of the general population. They further note that the internet has yet to fulfill the same role as broadcasting in the dissemination of news and information.
They cited a similar attempt to ease cross-ownership restrictions under former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, and said that many of the undersigned were co-sponsors of Senate Joint Resolution 28 which disapproved of the attempt. They also noted its rejection by the Third Circuit Court.
The senators conclude, “We respectfully request that the FCC not proceed with its proposed rule changes without providing a clear, evidence-based response to these concerns, not only because it is required by the Third Circuit’s ruling, but also in light of the significant public objection that has accompanied past attempts to change this rule.”