Thanks To The FCC, Your Kids Need To Be Even Smarter
It’s a clichéd phrase: Our children are the leaders of tomorrow. But if we really believe that, we need to teach them some important media skills today – thanks to changes put forth by the FCC.
You may be familiar with the FCC’s amazing decision that is heralded in a headline:
[http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2003/db0602/DOC-235047A1.doc] “FCC SETS LIMITS ON MEDIA CONCENTRATION.” At first glance you may think the FCC has actually set more restrictive limits on media ownership. Sadly that is not the case. There always have been limits on media ownership.
But before, television networks could only reach a maximum of 35% of the nation’s households through “owned and operated” (referred to as O&O’s) stations. The rest of the audience was served by privately owned affiliates operated by other companies. Now a network can reach up to 45% of the viewing public.
There were also limits on the number of media combinations that one person could own. For instance, a person who owns a television station couldn’t own a major newspaper in the same city. Now one major television station can also own the big daily paper in your city along with a posse of radio stations.
But as a parent, why is this important to you?
Because these changes will make the media landscape even more imposing. Brent Bozell, founder of Parents Television Counsel and the Media Research Center, has already discussed his fears about increased sex, violence, and profanity in a media world where fewer have control. Whereas before it was relatively easy to get the attention of a local broadcaster with a few letters objecting to the content in a particular program, chances are now you’ll be trying to convince a distanced network executive.
But while you’ll have a harder time getting the media to listen to you (or the FCC for that matter, which ignored the vast majority of a half-million comments from Americans objecting to relaxing ownership rules), Big Media will have a much easier time making you listen to them.
And that brings us to another pitfall that threatens the very democracy upon which this nation is built. In a democratic society, we grant the media the right to communicate news and public issues to us. That’s one of the primary reasons they are given a license to use our public airwaves. But every news reporter, cameraperson, editor, and news director has a bias. Multiple media outlets ensure a divergent range of voices offering different points of view.
With the implementation of these regulations, the number of opinions will be whittled down to a select few.
For instance, up until now a civic politician has had to face a determined television crew, crusty newspaper journalist, and hopefully at least a couple of radio reporters (although a similar decision a few years back allowing ownership of multiple radio stations has eliminated many individual radio newsrooms).
In a few years, the same representative of the people will face a reporter toting a miniature TV camera, from which she will extract a newspaper, radio, and television story. Forget about having time for “investigative journalism.” This reporter will be far too busy meeting not one, but three different media deadlines and filing three versions of the same story—all of which have been gathered from only one set of “eyes.”
With the increased unlikelihood of media decision makers living in your community, the representation of specific regional or community issues and values may be lost, crowded out, or simply deemed unimportant.
If your family is going to adapt to a new world where media will have even more influence and control over what gets airtime, parents will need to have the educational tools to help their children become critical viewers—those who are able to discern and question media bias. Our schools must also put a greater emphasis on media literacy training, so that young people can hone their objectivity skills and learn to think for themselves.
Without the efforts of parents and teachers, the next generation will not be able to see the forest for the trees that are growing on the horizon of the new media landscape.