Go public, FCC told

Pols, unions seek hearings on owner regs

WASHINGTON — Several lawmakers and media unions Tuesday called for full public hearings on the FCC’s media ownership rules now that a Philadelphia court has nixed the relaxed regs and sent the agency back to the drawing board.

Unions, including the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists and the Writers Guild of America East, also released a poll they believe demonstrates a decline in quality and diversity of news coverage as a result of media consolidation.

Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Diane Watson (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined Democratic FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein in calling on the FCC to hold at least one public hearing in every single state to gather input in the agency’s next stab at writing media ownership rules.

(Last month, a U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia forced the FCC to re-examine its decision to loosen media ownership rules.)

“We need to remember that this is not only a struggle against media consolidation but also a fight for journalistic integrity and localism and autonomy across all newsrooms, where truly independent voices can flourish in an environment where corporate focus on the bottom line and political ideology no longer dominate what the American public sees and hears,” Watson said.

Watson pointed to the findings of a recent poll of 400 workers from a cross section of print and broadcast news professionals commissioned by several unions.

Fewer viewpoints

Poll found that 86% of media workers surveyed believed that consumers will be offered fewer points of view and that control over news and programming decisions has been concentrated in too few corporate hands.

“Even as the literal number of entertainment, news and information outlets increases, actual decisionmaking, including news judgment, is falling into fewer and fewer hands,” AFTRA prexy John Connolly complained.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Nearly eight out of 10 participants said there has been a lowering of journalistic standards, with the industry’s most serious problem being too much emphasis on the bottom line, in the view of 83% of those surveyed.

    Other top concerns include the influence of ratings or circulation on coverage and programming (82%); the loss of credibility with the public (79%); declining quality of community coverage (74%); incomplete reporting and errors (73%); and too little focus on complex issues (72%).

  • Among trends threatening news reporting, 73% of participants cited understaffing and 63% cited lack of time and resources to do a professional job.

  • More than half of respondents said that employee morale has worsened at their news org within the past two years.

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