SEATTLE, WA - March 24 - In Seattle, music industry and radio professionals and media diversity advocates are calling upon federal lawmakers to recognize that concentrated media ownership is a problem which cannot be ignored in the current debate over indecency fines.
A coalition of groups including Reclaim the Media and the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Recording Academy recently convened a community "Fixing Radio" forum to discuss radio's role in the changing media landscape. As Congress moves towards final passage of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, the groups are urging Congress to take three immediate steps:
. Congress should use the current bill to delay the FCC's newly relaxed media ownership rules for one year in order to study the link between consolidation and programming standards (the Senate version of the bill already includes this provision);. Congress should strike provisions in the bill which unfairly target individual performers and announcers with indecency fines, rather than the broadcast companies who set the standards and make actual programming decisions. Following the FCC's advice, Congress should enact legislation reauthorizing Low-Power FM (LPFM) radio for noncommercial community broadcasting in cities and towns across the US.
"After a year of hearings and debates on media consolidation, Congress has little to show for their efforts," said Reclaim the Media co-director Jonathan Lawson. "Now they're going after broadcast indecency with a sudden fervor. If they had their priorities straight, they'd be attacking media consolidation with the same appetite. The indecency laws already on the books are vague and subject to such wide interpretation that abusive selective enforcement is practically inevitable. The current bill doesn't address any of these problems."
"Policymakers need to acknowledge that the increasing replacement of local news with offensive shock-value programming is linked to the expansion of companies like Clear Channel, Entercom and Viacom," said David Meinert, Pacific Northwest Chapter President of the Recording Academy. "It's unfair to fine announcers simply for providing the kind of programming their bosses demand."
"Low-power FM represents a real alternative to the problems that plague national commercial radio," said Lawson. "Imagine thousands of new stations that genuinely represent community standards, with local news, local culture and expanded opportunities for regular people to decide for themselves what should be on the air. Local artists and local community voices need better access to local airwaves."
During the Fixing Radio forum on Feb. 28 and 29 in Seattle, regional commercial and noncommercial broadcasters, musicians, consumer advocates and listeners discussed the effects of radio industry consolidation and new technologies such as satellite radio. Forum participants discussed ways in which federal policy could be changed in order to improve radio's service to the public interest, and to the traditional broadcasting values of diversity, competition and local accountability. This spring, forum organizers will release a comprehensive list of the group's recommendations as the Seattle Statement on Radio.
For details on the Fixing Radio Forum and the forthcoming Seattle Statement on Radio, see www.reclaimthemedia.org and www.grammy.com/pacificnw.aspx.