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Proposal to Change Media Ownership Regulations Victim of News "Blind Spot," Writes Prof. Kevin Howley

December 2, 2007

Kevin Howley 2005.jpgDecember 2, 2007, Greencastle, Ind. - The headlines are filled with stories on the screenwriter's strike, notes Kevin Howley in the Bloomington Alternative. The associate professor of communication at DePauw University believes that those reports "reveal a great deal about the blind spots and blackouts that are common in U.S. press coverage of media and culture. Indeed, the sheer amount of coverage the writer's strike receives stands in stark contrast to another media-related news story -- a blockbuster, in fact -- that barely receives mention, let alone headlines ... the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) proposed rule change to media ownership regulations."

The op-ed by Dr. Howley continues, "FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has made quite clear his intention to gut the few remaining regulations that prevent media corporations from further consolidating their holdings across the country. He has also set his sights on the long-standing prohibition against broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership in the same market." However, the professor points out, "Bipartisan support is growing for legislation -- the Media Ownership Act of 2007 -- that would put the brakes on Martin's plan to allow further media consolidation."

The FCC chairman has placed his plan on a "fast track" for approval. "Martin's intransigence in the face of growing popular opposition to media consolidation has set the stage for a showdown in the U.S. Congress over communication policy that may well shape the American media landscape for generations to come," asserts Howley. "And yet, despite the high stakes political maneuvering between federal regulators, industry lobbyists and citizens groups over the FCC's proposed rule change to media ownership regulations, the U.S. news media refuses to cover this issue in any depth. Surely bipartisan support in Congress on any issue is newsworthy. Instead its business as usual in the nation's newsrooms. What little press coverage there is of this debate is found in the business sections of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Failure to cover this issue, at length and in-depth,reporter clip art.jpg is, at best, a blind spot for the U.S. press. At worst, it is a deliberate media blackout designed to keep the American people in the dark, and out of the loop, when it comes to crucial public policy decisions."

In conclusion, Professor Howley argues, "in the scheme of things, the writer's strike is small potatoes compared with the consequences further media consolidation will have on American media, society and culture. Today, a handful of conglomerates control most of the news, information, and cultural programming Americans read, see and hear. Big media is on the howley community media.jpgmarch, while local, independent media is on the run. In a rapidly changing media environment, vigorous reporting of communication policy debates, such as media ownership, is the first step toward ensuring a more diverse, accountable and responsible media system for us all."

Read the complete column at the weekly newspaper's Web site(a paid subscription may be required).

Read more about Kevin Howley, who authored Community Media: People, Places, and Communication Technologies, in this previous story.

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