For the most part, the academic community agrees that the concepts of diversity, localism and competition enshrined as the basis of FCC media ownership rules are worthy of encouragement . The order of the day, however, was not how to achieve the goals, but how to approach and study the issue.
Studying the issue was a natural for this crowd, being academics. The point was made that the study of media economics, although making strides, still has a long way to go, and the FCC was called upon to help move the ball forward.
One of the biggest points made was the need to redesign the FCC ownership database in order to facilitate study and trend tracking. At the moment, it is necessary to look at the ownership structure on a station-by-station basis. The information that is there is not accessible, much less searchable, in any other way.
The FCC’s enhanced disclosure ownership forms were hailed, since they will shed greater light on minority and female ownership, but getting them into a more user-friendly storage format will be necessary for both FCC in-house and outsider study.
Other technical issues involved how to define the questions. How does one determine if a marketplace is diverse, local and/or competitive? Should such questions be considered across markets and/or across media platforms? How is each thing measured? What standard can be developed for the “marketplace of ideas” that is more appropriate than the HHI index? Should societal goals, such as facilitating an informed public and encouraging voting, be part of the equation?
The FCC is taking comments on this through 11/20/09.