Is the Obama FCC Really Pushing Bush's Failed Media Policies?
By Craig Aaron and NALIP Board member Joe Torres, for The Huffington Post. For background on how the FCC is "preparing to relax a longstanding rule that limits the ability of companies to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same local market," read this article in The New York Times.
As a senator, Barack Obama fought to prevent greater media consolidation.
In 2007, he opposed a vote by the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission to lift the ban on allowing one company to own a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market.
"We must ensure that we have an open media market that represents all of the voices in our diverse nation and allows them to be heard," the future president said before the FCC's vote.
Why then is the Obama FCC reportedly pushing for nearly the same rule changes the Republicans failed to carry out in the Bush years? And why -- when those efforts to further weaken media ownership limits were rejected by the public, the courts and congressional leaders -- would the FCC expect a different response this time? Just because a Democrat is now in charge?
To his credit, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has demonstrated a newfound willingness to stand up to the biggest corporations. He deserves accolades for showing why the AT&T/T-Mobile merger is not in the public interest. But that just makes his rumored moves on the traditional media front all the more baffling.
99% Against Big Media
So far Genachowski has spent little time in office focusing on media ownership. But there are few media policy issues that have galvanized as much widespread public opposition as runaway media consolidation. Millions of people have spoken out over the past decade against allowing big media corporations to swallow up more local media outlets. They understand the harm caused when companies like News Corp., Tribune and Sinclair place profits over investing in newsrooms and the information needs of the audiences they serve.
When the FCC tried to gut its ownership rules in 2003 and again in 2007, the public was outraged. They filled hearings to the rafters, and 99 percent of the public comments received by the agency opposed greater media concentration.
The courts have been no more welcoming of the FCC's attempts to do big media's bidding. In 2004, a federal appeals court rejected the rules pushed through by then-Chairman Michael Powell. And just last summer, the same court threw out ex-Chair Kevin Martin's loophole-ridden rules that undermined the longstanding ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. The court castigated the FCC for failing to listen to public input.
Obama wasn't alone in his opposition to greater media concentration. He was joined by, among others, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. And in 2008, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation to overturn the FCC's weakened cross-ownership rule.
Just last year, Sens. Maria Cantwell and Olympia Snowe, joined by then-Sen. Byron Dorgan, sent a letter reminding the FCC "of the Senate's interest in public interest limits for media ownership and that the current Commission is under no obligation to follow the footsteps of its predecessors" who sought to get rid of the ownership rules.
The Truth About Media Consolidation
Of course, big media companies have not given up pressuring the FCC and Congress to twist the rules to their liking. They claim that the Internet has changed everything and they need more consolidation to compete.
In truth, incumbent media dominate online as well. An FCC-commissioned study released earlier this year found that "online local news markets resemble downsized versions of traditional media news markets, with the same news stories produced by the same newspapers and television stations."
There's no doubt that the Internet has disrupted the sky-high monopoly profits newspapers once enjoyed, though most are still profitable. Many media companies are struggling financially largely due to self-inflicted wounds: They got too big too fast and now aren't able to service all the debt they took on trying to please insatiable Wall Street investors.
If consolidation has been bad for business, it has been far worse for journalism. Tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs in recent years, and many foreign and statehouse bureaus have been shuttered. More consolidation will mean even fewer reporters on the beat finding out what's happening in local communities.
The FCC Fails to Deal with Diversity
Media consolidation has also hindered the ability of people of color and women to become broadcast station owners. People of color own just 3 percent of all full-power TV stations and 7 percent of radio stations; women own just 6 percent of all broadcast outlets.
Even though the recent federal court ruling rejecting the FCC's rules took the agency to task for failing to address minority and female ownership, the Obama FCC appears determined to pursue the same failed policies as its predecessors.
What happened to the Obama who, as a candidate, called out the FCC for promoting "the concept of consolidation over diversity" and promised to "encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media"?
Last month, a coalition of civil rights groups wrote a letter to the FCC lamenting that the agency "has no meaningful policies to address racial and gender inequities in media ownership and has ignored the impact of its media ownership rules on those inequities."
"As media consolidation grows, people of color and women become less significant players in the media ecosystem," concluded the groups, which included the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the ACLU, NOW and the NAACP. "The Commission must acknowledge that fact and take action to remedy it."
Fifty more media, women's and social justice organizations (including Free Press) weighed in today with another letter to the agency, warning, "the continued absence of FCC action in the face of deep and intractable ownership disparities is unacceptable."
The signers asked the FCC to evaluate the impact of its media ownership rules on ownership opportunities for women and people of color; take proactive measures to promote ownership of broadcast stations by under-represented groups; and guard against further erosion of media ownership among these groups by maintaining existing media ownership limits.
Now Is the Time to Make Your Voice Heard
On Thursday night, FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael Copps will be in Atlanta for a hearing on media ownership issues at Georgia Tech. This event will be a chance to remind the agency how destructive media consolidation is for local communities.
But even if you're not in Atlanta, you can still tell the FCC what you think. If this talk of going back to Bush's ownership rules is just a trial balloon, now is the time to pop it.
What we need isn't more disastrous media consolidation. We need media that truly represent, as Barack Obama himself said not long ago, "all of the voices in our diverse nation."
We won't get there if we fall back on the failed policies of the past.
NATPE 2012 Special Discount for the NALIP Community
The annual NATPE Market & Conference is the only U.S.-based program market serving the worldwide television community. If you buy, sell, develop, finance, advertise, market, license or leverage media assets, you must be in Miami this January 23-25.
NATPE 2012 promises to deliver the latest trends and innovations. This year's three-day event will feature over 100 confirmed speakers: leaders in technology, TV, advertising, brand strategies, and more.
- Cisneros Group of Companies: Adriana Cisneros, Vice Chairman & VP of Strategy
- Estefan Enterprises, Inc.: Emilio Estefan, Music Producer
- Fox International Channels: Hernan Lopez, President & CEO
- RCN TV: Fernando Gaitan, Vice President of Production and Content
- Telemundo Media: Emilio Romano, President
- Univision Communications, Inc.: Cesar Conde, President, Univision Networks
Click here to view our full listing, of over 200 speakers.
NALIP and NATPE have partnered, to provide the NALIP community a special registration discount to the three-day NATPE Market & Conference.
Visit the Conference's registration page, and enter the promo code N12NALIP to register for $750. That's a savings of $500 off the NATPE Event Rate.
33 More Twitter Feeds For Doc Filmmakers To Follow
By Chris Dorr, Future of Film
A week ago, Marc Schiller wrote a great post detailing 15 Twitter Feeds Every Documentary Filmmaker Should Follow. People from all over the world tweeted and retweeted the post and several gave us additional suggestions for the list. We decided to pass them on.
Nancy Schwartzman wrote, "Doc film twitter streams need to encompass not just the films, but the issues those films touch on."
She then listed: @thelinecampaign, @thompowers, @fledglingfund, @workingfilms, @chickeneggpics, @kartemquin, @tiffanyshlain, @fancynancynyc, @melsil, @fromthehip, @shootingpeople, @trixiefilms and @cinereach.
Jake Moore suggested @ErrolMorris.
Anonymous thought we should add @ITVSIndies and @IndependentLens
Telegraph 21 asked if it was OK to add @telegraph21 and described it "as an innovative curatorial project and video magazine dedicated to documentaries and art videos from around the world.
Pearl Mina mentioned "the UK's collaborative network of groundbreaking documentary film making innovators & media creatives led by The London Screenwriting Festival/ London Documentary Summit & Guerilla Film Makers Handbook, Chris Jones (@livingspiritpix) and Andrew Zinnes (@crazeepix)."
And she suggested, everyone follow @LondonDocSummit and @PearlMina27 for industry updates, events and all things documentary.
Jean added that another key one for the UK is @the_dfg for the Documentary Filmmakers' Group and Suzanne B mentioned a UK filmmaking/photography magazine @hungryeyemag.
Erica Ginsberg of Docs In Progress (@docsinprogress) wrote that she agreed with Nancy's suggestions and she added @Morriew, @SKilmurry, @aboutdocsguide, @paufder, @economistfilm, @twendywendy and @1basil1.
Rachael commented that, "there are places for an ifmaker to pitch, incubate your film and get it funded. @kickstarter and @juntoboxfilms, a new one that is funding independent films and building a community of collaborative creators."
And to top it off, Henry Copeland wrote in and gave us a map of the people who follow the twitter feeds Marc listed and how they all interconnect on Twitter: So have fun, and follow them all or just a few. Let us know what you think!
There are a lot of great resources on Twitter for everyone interested in documentaries.
Call for Entries: Big Vision Empty Wallet's National Film Pitch Competition
The purpose of Big Vision Empty Wallet's National Film Pitch Competition is to find the next great feature film and GET IT MADE! Canon will be awarding the Grand Prize Winner with an extensive 30 day rental package. The winner will also receive other free rental packages and services to help them get their film made from additional sponsors, including a Producer's Package from Media Services/Show Biz Software, Quick Film Budget, Redrock Micro, Ataboy, konsonant/, Rotting Television and Daryl Eisenberg Casting. The Grand Prize is valued at over $100,000.
Deadline: January 30, 2012
For more information, please visit: www.bigvisionemptywallet.com/national-film-pitch
Call for Applications: Roy Dean Spring Film Grant
Celebrating our 20th year providing grants to exceptional filmmakers, our Roy Dean Spring Film Grant is now taking applications. We give cash and goods and service donations from the top people in our Industry. We want films that are unique and make a contribution to society. We fund docs, shorts and low budget features. Visit our site for full information, past winners, application and list of awards. Everyone who applies gets a free film financing consultation with Carole Dean, author The Art of Film Funding.
For details and application information please visit: www.FromTheHeartProductions.com