May 23, 2003

Secrecy clouds critical FCC decision

On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the branch of the government that regulates the media, will make a decision that may have far-reaching consequences in both print and broadcast media. With little to no public debate or discussion, five commissioners in the FCC will vote on further opening up American mass media to deregulation. If the FCC votes to accept the proposed deregulatory measures, the results would likely include eventual consolidation, a situation where four or five companies could control all of the television the public consumes. Under the FCC's current rules, the top five media companies already control over 75 percent of prime time and own almost all of the top 50 cable television channels.

Media consolidation affects the way that the vast majority of people get their information, and the issue should be open to debate. Yet a combination of secrecy from the FCC and self-censorship by much of the mass media has kept this upcoming decision from the public eye, despite discussion in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The public has been sheltered from this issue, which is both its own fault and that of the media. But this can be rectified. The FCC will continue to allow the public to give its input until May 30. To contact the FCC one can either visit its Web site (http://www.fcc.gov/contacts.html) or call toll free at 1-888-225-5322 (1-888-CALL-FCC).