MOUNT VERNON, NY — November 30, 2017 —The FCC’s upcoming decision of December 14, 2017 on reversing Net Neutrality has sparked serious concerns and has gained a ton of media attention on yet another reversal of the Obama administration’s signature achievements. What’s not getting enough attention, however, is the FCC decision of November 16, 2017 that has flown under the radar. It is equally as harmful to us locally, because it allows a single company to own a newspaper, television and radio stations in the same town.
Known as a media cross-ownership ban, the Republican-led FCC eliminated the restrictions – voted along party lines – reversing a decades-old rule aimed at preventing any individual or company from having too much power over local coverage.
In addition, as part of the vote, the agency also increased the number of television stations a company could own in a local market.
To put this repeal in context, the ban was first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print.
The intended consequence was working, or maybe working too well. Because of the ban, we have had the rise of blogs, websites and podcasts that all provide alternative, diverse, and competitive viewpoints to traditional media outlets. In Westchester County for example, the Journal News online and print outlets have to work harder now, than say five years ago, to get exclusive local stories. But the larger community benefits from diverse perspectives on the same story or local flavors from the County Press, Westmore News, Yonkers Tribune, Home Town Media and Rising Media Group, to name a few. On the cable front, FiOS 1 News and News 12 complement each other in local and regional reporting.
Quite frankly, in the age of Fake news, it’s hard to imagine a Rupert Murdoch, FOX News, New York Post, top-down, one-size- fits- all, politically conservative brand of news in Westchester; or, in any other county, without a court fight. But with deep pockets and this FCC rule-change, the scenario of “abridgement of free speech” protected by the First Amendment is now probable. The politically conservative, Koch brothers, $3 Billion merger deal involving Time Inc., (publisher of Fortune, Time, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine) and Meredith Corporation (publisher of Better Homes and Garden, Family Circle, All Recipes) announced on November 26, 2017 — 10 days after the FCC decision is just the start.
The writer, a Mount Vernon resident, is a former director of management consulting for The Gartner Group, and a former 2016 congressional candidate for NY 16th CD. He is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.