It's crunch time at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), whose chairman, Michael Powell, has set a June 2 deadline to make a decision on relaxing cross-ownership rules for TV and radio stations. Those supporting the concept include Powell, at least one other Republican FCC commissioner and executives of the handful of top media properties in America.
Those opposing include, well, just about everyone else. From Common Cause and NOW to the Family Research Council and the NRA, dozens of organizations spanning the political spectrum, with cumulatively tens of millions of members, have registered their opposition to increased cross-ownership.
Even some media moguls are opposed. Barry Diller and Ted Turner have denounced the idea. Media consolidation may not be the biggest danger America faces. But America should know what's at stake. In 1989, the Big Three networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- held a 17 percent share of TV programming. By 2002, relaxed rules increased that percentage to 48 percent. Add Fox, AOL-Time Warner and ATT/Liberty, and these six megacorporations today control two-thirds of all programming on television.
Further deregulation will not mean greater opportunity for competition. Rather, it will mean the opposite: More control of the airwaves by the few, with even less accountability to the market than they demonstrate today.
The concept of community standards is alien to the suits in New York. Their bottom-line programming philosophy means bottom-of-the-barrel programming, and quality be damned.
What are those community standards? To find out, last year, the Parents Television Council sent out over 1.5 million community standard audits, of which over 128,000 were returned. The numbers speak for themselves.
Should there be graphic violence during children's viewing time? No, said 94.2 percent. Partial nudity during that time? No, said 93.1 percent. Should shows promote the homosexual lifestyle in the face of kids? No, said 94.6 percent. The same percentage said no to prime-time promotion of oral sex and sex involving minors. Roughly the same number of survey respondents objected to blasphemous language, excretory language, descriptions of sexual encounters or strong sexual language.
Guess what? All these things can now be found on broadcast television, courtesy of those media megacorporations that could care less who they offend. And now they're asking the FCC for more stations to sell more offensive programming.