Free Press: FCC Report Falls Far Short of Real Solutions

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Josh Stearns, 413-585-1533 x204

Free Press: FCC Report Falls Far Short of Real Solutions

WASHINGTON - On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission released its long-awaited report on the future of media, now re-titled "The Technology and Information Needs of Communities.” The report is the result of more than a year of research, and was presented as a rare opportunity to respond to a crisis facing journalism and its negative effect on the public, and inform a proactive public interest media policy course for the digital age.

Free Press, along with more than 30 media reform and journalism organizations and more than 9,000 citizens, submitted detailed comments to the FCC in 2010, suggesting a number of actions and policy changes that would help provide more quality news and information to local communities.

(Read the comments and recommendations here: http://www.freepress.net/resource/free-press-future-media-comments).

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“We are still reviewing the voluminous document, but at first glance it appears to be a major disappointment. The report discusses many important ideas, but where the FCC actually has the power to help local communities, the agency abdicates its responsibility in the areas. Worse yet, instead of striking a bold path forward, the FCC chairman appears to be backing away from the positive, though baby steps made by his Republican predecessors on the issues of competition, localism and diversity.

“While we commend Steve Waldman and his team for the countless hours they spent reaching out and listening to different stakeholders, we're troubled that the report's conclusions seem disconnected from its own evidence. The report does highlight a number of promising policy ideas—many proposed by Free Press—including tax policy changes that would support nonprofit news outlets and encourage the sale of media outlets to diverse owners. However, these and other positive recommendations made in the report are beyond the scope of the FCC's authority.

"The biggest take away from the agency's report is that there is still a crisis in quality, local news. However, oddly, the FCC report seems to embrace policies that would make this problem even worse. We are especially disappointed that the Commission is abandoning enhanced disclosure that requires broadcasters to report how much - or how little - local news and programming they air. In essence, this hides the problem this report was intended to help resolve by making it harder to find evidence of the problem.

“We can’t make smart policy if we don’t know what’s going on in our media. It’s ironic that the authors spent so much time and effort gathering and analyzing data on the problems facing the media, yet the report concludes that one solution is to collect less data on the problems with existing local media.

"It is also stunning that the report hedges, and even seems in some instances to embrace more destructive local media consolidation as the answer to the crisis in journalism. The FCC’s own data shows that prior consolidation and cross-ownership lead to an overall decrease in local news production. If the FCC decides to relax, waive, or ignore its own rules that prevent the formation of local media monopolies, it may temporarily help pad the profits of the large conglomerates, but it will not cure what ails journalism or the media industry.

“The release of this report is not the end of the discussion. The only way to ensure vibrant, quality journalism—and a healthy democracy—is to engage the public so starved for meaningful local news and information today. We hope that this report can still serve as a catalyst for better public policy to address the serious problems the document identifies.”

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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