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Salon on Indecency and Consolidation

Filed under by Amanda Toering — 04/14/2005 @ 8:44 am

Salon has a detailed article on the relationship between two of the biggest elephants in the FCC’s living room: indecency and media consolidation.

Our ally Jonathan Rintels is a featured voice in the article.

What may be additionally frustrating for activists who worked on the same side as Copps and Adelstein during the consolidation battle is that the two FCC commissioners first embraced the indecency issue via the media ownership debate. At the time, they argued that as fewer and fewer corporations bought up more and more programming outlets, there would be a race to the bottom in content, and that without hands-on local owners, radio and television stations would no longer have a sense of community standards, leading to an increase in indecent programming. Both Democratic commissioners urged Powell to order a study of that possibility. In a 2002 written statement to the press, Copps wondered, “Has consolidation led to an increase in the amount of indecent programming? When programming decisions are made on Wall Street or Madison Avenue, rather than by local broadcasters on Main Street, does indecency grow more pervasive? We must answer these questions before the Commission votes on whether to eliminate our media concentration protections this spring.”

That rationale struck a chord with cultural conservatives, who were already protesting raunchy content and distrustful of allowing major media empires to expand. Even today, on the Parents Television Council home page, right next to the “Broadcast Indecency” banner, visitors can learn more about the issue of “Media Ownership/Localism.”

“I sat two chairs away from [PTC’s] Brent Bozell and testified alongside him” at congressional hearings on media consolidation,” recalls Rintels. “I could’ve written his comments and he could’ve written mine. We see a link between ownership and indecency,” he says.

In the end, Copps and Adelstein were not able to get Powell to look into the “consolidation equals indecency” angle of the ownership debate. And Martin himself quietly sided with Powell in voting for relaxing the ownership rules. (It will be interesting to see if Martin, as Powell did before him, tries to keep separate the issues of consolidation and indecency.)

Read the piece at Free Press or Salon.com.

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