Debunking The White House’s Media Ownership Myths

On May 15th, on the verge of a full Senate vote on the “resolution of disapproval” that would overturn the FCC decision to gut media ownership rules, the White House released a formal “Statement of Administration Policy” defending the FCC and threatening to veto any bill designed to nullify the FCC’s rule change.

However, the administration got some of their facts wrong. Below is a copy of their statement, with a few notes and clarifications.

“The Administration strongly opposes Senate passage of S. J. Res. 28, a resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with respect to broadcast media ownership.”

Surprise, surprise.

“The FCC rule, which is the product of years of study and extensive public comment and consultation, modestly and judiciously modernizes decades-old media ownership regulations that highly restrict cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations.”

  • Fact: That would be years of flawed research, biased research, and research that was from the start guided by foregone conclusions.
  • Fact: 99% of the public comments were against media consolidation. The public is overwhelmingly against further consolidation in the media market.
  • Fact: The rule is not a modest change but rather a wholesale gutting of the cross-ownership rule, a good rule that is not outdated but rather has lasted the test of time because it is important.

“As a result of technological advances that have led to a dramatic and permanent transformation of the media marketplace in which citizens now have access to a multitude of additional sources of information, these outdated restrictions are not necessary. The new rule more accurately reflects this changing media landscape by taking into account the abundance of news and information outlets that exist today, and furthers the public interest by providing greater financial flexibility to newspaper and broadcast outlets struggling to survive in today’s intensely competitive media environment.”

  • Fact: New technologies have had a limited impact on local news. The vast majority of people still get their local news from traditional broadcast outlets (or go to the Web sites of those traditional broadcast outlets).
  • Fact: Newspaper profits have been declining, but they are still making boatloads of money and their profits are better than many Fortune 500 companies.

“In addition to reducing the prior rule’s excessive regulation of well-functioning markets, the new FCC rule includes substantial constraints to guard against excessive concentration.”

  • Fact: There are no “substantial constraints” in this rule. The waivers and loopholes in this rule make it weak and toothless, leaving communities big and small open for further media consolidation.
  • Fact: Ideas and information are not widgets. The role of the media is not just to make profits; those using the public airwaves have a responsibility to give us the information we need to hold our leaders accountable.
  • Fact: The media has always been regulated and always will be. The question is who do the rules benefit? This rule change just twists the rules to protect corporate interests instead of protecting the public interest.

The administration’s statement on media ownership reads like a set of industry talking points and illustrates a dogged insistence to ignore the facts and the will of the people. The fact is, Big Media is bad for local news, bad for competition, and bad for democracy.

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