Incredible List of Civil Rights Groups Opposed to the FCC’s Plan to Allow More Media Consolidation

This is the text of a letter that was filed with the FCC yesterday. Check out the amazing list of organizations at the bottom.

November 20, 2012

Chairman Julius Genachowski
Commissioner Robert McDowell
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
Commissioner Ajit Pai

Federal Communications Commission
445 Twelfth Street, SW
Washington, DC 20054

Re: MB Docket No. 09-182, 2010 Quadrennial Review

Dear Chairman Genachowski and Commissioners:

On behalf of the undersigned civil rights organizations, we write to urge the Federal Communications Commission to seek public comment on the Commission’s recently released ownership data before making any changes to the current media ownership rules. 

As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has directed, the Commission must first be able to demonstrate that any changes to the ownership rules promote diversity of ownership before it can take action on media ownership. While the ownership data released on November 14 was the first comprehensive attempt to capture ownership rates across all classes of licensees, the accompanying report does not include any synthesis of the data, analysis of trends, discussion of causation, or forecasts. Rigorous public review is necessary to consider the value and import of this new information. Therefore, any action at this time on the media ownership rules is premature.

The expansion of minority and female ownership in media is an important goal for the civil rights community because of the powerful role the media plays in the democratic process, as well as in shaping perceptions about who we are as individuals and as a nation. 

We believe that the burden of proof lies with the Commission to justify changes to the media ownership rules,[1] as well as to demonstrate that its media ownership rules promote ownership by women and people of color.[2]

On November 14, for the first time, the Commission released the first, baseline data on women and minority ownership that were derived from data collections conducted in 2009 and 2011. Minority and women ownership data is critical because without good data, the Commission cannot understand how changes to its media ownership rules impact its goal of promoting ownership by women and people of color.[3] For 14 years, the Commission has been attempting to collect this data and every release thus far has been late and filled with flaws. Although the collection and release of ownership data is an improvement from prior reviews of media ownership rules, even the current release reveals several limitations.[4]

Unfortunately, at the same time, the Commission also began to consider a proposed order that would relax several critical media ownership rules.[5] As organizations that represent women and people of color, we would like a full opportunity to understand, analyze, and offer comment not only on the ownership data, but on the Commission’s analysis in support of relaxation of ownership rules—before the Commission takes action on the proposed order.

While the completion of the 2010 Quadrennial Review is long overdue, the passage of time is no excuse to rush to completion of a flawed decision. Relaxing these rules will eliminate future opportunities for participation in this marketplace by women and people of color that cannot be recovered by subsequent changes. We strongly urge you to move with deliberation and seek further comment before taking action. 

We look forward to working with you to come to an appropriate resolution of this docket and to collaborate on further efforts to ensure that the media in our country reflects its full diversity.

 Please contact Leadership Conference Media/Telecommunications Task Force Co-Chairs Cheryl Leanza, UCC Office of Communication, Inc., at 202-841-6033, or Chris Calabrese, ACLU, at 202-715-0839, or Corrine Yu, Leadership Conference Managing Policy Director at 202-466-5670, if you would like to discuss the above issues.

Sincerely,

American Civil Liberties Union
Asian American Justice Center, member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
Common Cause
Communications Workers of America
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
National Council of La Raza
National Hispanic Media Coalition
National Organization for Women
National Urban League
NAACP
Rainbow/PUSH
United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc.

[1] The media ownership review occurs pursuant to the Communications Act’s quadrennial review provision, which was interpreted by the Third Circuit in 2004.  Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, 373 F.3d 372 (3d Cir. 2004) (rejecting a presumption in favor of deregulation and adopting the “ordinary” public interest and administrative law standards).

[2] See 2010 Quadrennial Review, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at ¶ 158 (rel. Dec. 22, 2011) (acknowledging limitations of the record with regard to diversity of ownership proposals).

[3] In fact, the Commission is under a court mandate to consider the impact of media ownership rules on women and people of color before making changes to those rules. Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, 652 F.3d 431 (3rd Cir. 2011).

[4] Report on Ownership of Commercial Broadcast Stations, MB Docket 09-128 (released Nov. 14, 2012) (describing manual and algorithmic adjustments to the data and discrepancies between 2009 and 2011 data which limit the quality of trend analysis).

[5] Edward Wyatt, “FCC Takes on Cross-Ownership”, The New York Times (November 14, 2012).

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