Who Owns The Media?
When federal broadcasting laws were first enacted in the 1920s and 1930s, they encouraged diverse, local ownership of media. They did so by severely limiting the number of radio or television stations that could be owned by a single company, by preventing a company from owning both radio and TV stations in a single broadcast region or “market,” and by prohibiting ownership of a newspaper and TV or radio station in a given market.
These rules governing media assured that there was a great deal of diversity, both within local media markets and across the country. Media consumers – people just like us – were exposed to many different points of view and to much information of local community interest.
We believe that such diversity and locally-relevant information is necessary to sustain healthy democratic institutions at all levels of government. After all, how can we reasonably decide on policy matters or political candidates without knowing all the pros and cons?
Beware of the Gold Rush
Consolidation occurs when one media company buys another (and another, and another), eventually resulting in a few gigantic corporations controlling the bulk of information flowing to the cities, towns, hamlets, and homes of the nation.
The Telecommunications Act permitted the formation of media behemoths Disney, News Corporation, Time Warner, Viacom, CBS, and the soon to be finalized merger of Comcast and NBC/Universal. Each of these corporations enjoys billions of dollars in yearly revenue and controls information coming to us via all (or most) of the following: television, radio, film, publishing, and online sources.
Although these corporations provide a lot of information and entertainment, that information is not ideally diverse and is certainly not locally-based.
WHY IS MEDIA OWNERSHIP IMPORTANT TO ME?
Becoming media literate
Media ownership matters. To quote our friends at FreePress.net, “TV, radio, movies, books, newspapers and the Internet are our prime sources of news and information. They shape our values, beliefs and perspectives.
“Media are also essential to our democracy. We depend upon media to know what’s happening in our communities, to play our part as citizens, and to serve as a vital check on government and corporate power.”
Fuller, more diverse, more particularized knowledge about the workings of our democratic institutions can be ours. As we discern the realproblems we face, we’ll have a chance at figuring out real solutions. The starting point for meeting any human challenge is full, accurate, and unbiased information.
WOHM, PBS, NPR, & CPB
Adding our voice to the airwaves
WOHM 96.3FM Charleston is part of a renessaince of low power radio stations in this country. We are a noncommerical, nonprofit, local radio station diversifying the airwaves and creating new content for listeners.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a nonprofit organization that distributes programming to the nation’s public television stations.
National Public Radio (NPR), too, is a popular radio service that listeners rely on for news, music, and quality programming. It’s a nonprofit organization that distributes programs to public radio stations across the country.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is an agency that funds PBS, NPR and other public media producers. It is a private, nonprofit corporation established by the federal government via the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. In creating CPB, Congress acknowledged the need for public media in a healthy democracy. The Act stated that “public television and radio…constitute valuable local community resources…to address national concerns and solve local problems.”
THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACTS OF 1996
The act that would change the future of media
Changes in the delivery of news and information followed in the wake of changes in government regulation of media. Beginning under President Reagan in the 1980s, media ownership rules were relaxed. One company was permitted to own more stations and a single company could now own radio and TV stations in a single market.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 signed under President Clinton made it possible for one company to own TV stations serving up to 35% of TV households in the country, to own radio stations serving up to 35% of the U.S. population, and to own TV and radio stations in the same broadcast market.
CONSOLIDATED MEDIA OPERATIONS
A profit driven motive
These “big six” corporations are in business to maximize their profits. Provided they operate legally, profit is the sole yardstick by which they judge themselves. Media products of all types (TV programs, news, books, etc.) take on a discernible corporate slant.
Products (including news) that are cheap to produce and garner large audiences are favored over expensive products with narrower appeal. Advertising (which provides the lion’s share of those billions in revenue) rises and rises – including advertising to children. Consumerism is insistently encouraged. Fewer companies engage in the costly enterprise of journalism. Fewer stories about public matters are investigated. Fact-checking becomes more sporadic.
The corporate point of view becomes increasingly dominant in news, information, and entertainment. Points of view that seriously challenge corporations fade from view.
The voice of the people
Public media include all broadcast, print, and Internet media whose mission is to serve the public rather than to make a profit. It is the noncommercial part of the modern media landscape – designed specifically to inform, educate, and enhance the lives of the public.
Public radio and television stations, in contrast to most commercial broadcasters, tend to be locally owned and operated. Their governing boards and community advisors work diligently to provide programs and services that are responsive to local needs.
Public broadcasters – both TV and radio – aim to serve a broad cross section of the public in their local communities – including people of all ages, economic levels, interests, and ethnicities.
Happening in a small town near you
Covert consolidation occurs when broadcasters combine their efforts but do it in a somewhat hidden way. Rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put limits on the number of stations that can be owned by one company in a particular locality. These rules are intended to preserve competition and diversity in the news and information to which citizens in that locality have access. But sometimes – quite often, actually – broadcasters share their news operations, thereby eliminating the competition and diversity that is vital to healthy democracies.
If you’re a viewer of local television news in the Charleston area you probably already know that two of our popular local stations share their news operations.The similarities between the two are very evident in the video we helped to create featured on the homepage of this site.
Equal access for all
Net Neutrality is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet.
Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies.
Net Neutrality is the reason the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation and free speech online. It protects the consumer's right to use any equipment, content, application or service without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data -- not to choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.
The consequences of a world without Net Neutrality would be devastating. Innovation would be stifled, competition limited, and access to information restricted. Consumer choice and the free market would be sacrificed to the interests of a few corporations.
On the Internet, consumers are in ultimate control -- deciding between content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who owns the network. There's no middleman. But without Net Neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu.
The free and open Internet brings with it the revolutionary possibility that any Internet site could have the reach of a TV or radio station. The loss of Net Neutrality would end this unparalleled opportunity for freedom of expression.