Thierer Files Comments in Media Ownership Proceeding
WASHINGTON D.C. - As the Federal Communications Commission embarks on a new proceeding reviewing media ownership rules, it must not fall under the spell of various "media myths" that have clouded the debate in the past. So warns Progress & Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow Adam Thierer in comments filed today at the FCC in its latest proceeding. Thierer, director of PFF's Center for Digital Media Freedom, builds on his latest book last year, Media Myths: Making Sense of the Debate Over Media Ownership in making his case to the Commission that the time is ripe to abandon media ownership controls.
Thierer's book focused on seven myths in the heated media ownership debate - diversity, localism, concentration, the fate of democracy, quality of journalism and entertainment, free speech, and new technologies. In his filing calling for an end to media ownership rules, Thierer limits his focus to the first two, diversity and localism:
- Myth: Diversity will suffer in an unregulated marketplace and many niche or minority audiences will not have access to the news, information, or entertainment they desire or need.
- Reality: "Today's media environment is more diverse than ever before and is characterized by information abundance, not information scarcity," Thierer writes. "If there is a media diversity problem today it is that citizens suffer from "information overload" because of all the choices at their disposal."
- Myth: Localism will be ignored in an unregulated marketplace since media providers will only deliver local fare if they are small "mom-and-pop" organizations. Larger media providers or chain owners cannot be expected to fulfill the needs of local communities.
- Reality: "While we do not really know exactly how much local fare citizens demand, citizens still receive a wealth of information about developments in their communities," says Thierer. "Indeed, 'localism' is the one thing that distinguishes traditional radio and television broadcasting from newer forms of media and keeps it competitive. And new technologies are making it easier than ever before to access local information on demand."
When publishing its latest media ownership rules in 2003, the FCC stated the following: "In short, there are far more types of media available today, far more outlets per-type of media today, and far more news and public interest programming options available to the public today than ever before." Thierer states that this is even more true today: "Indeed, to the extent there was ever a "Golden Age" of American media, we are living in it." "In such an age of abundance and hyper-choice, the question of who owns what or how much they own is utterly irrelevant," he argues. "No matter how large any given media outlet is today, it is ultimately just one of thousands of sources of news, information and entertainment that we have at our collective disposal."
This argues against further restrictions on media ownership and in fact in favor of abandonment of restrictions, Thierer states. "In such an environment, it is fundamentally unfair to impose asymmetrical regulations and ownership controls on one class of information providers while leaving others completely free to arrange their affairs-and, by extension, their speech-as they wish... If we as a society care about freedom, and freedom of information in particular, we must end all media ownership controls before technological and market convergence create regulatory convergence as well."
Thierer's comments are available on the PFF web site. He is available for media interviews; please contact Amy Smorodin at 202-289-8928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.