Tag Archives: #FCC

There’s nothing fair about it.

I want to be treated equally, I want my opinion to matter as much as the next person and I want to be informed in a knowledgeable and worldly way.  But I am not treated equally; I am a college student whose opinion is not taken seriously.  I am not wealthy and I do not know anyone of high statues therefor others opinions are more important then my own and the information I want to hear is pushed to the back burner for those who put profit over quality.

Today’s media has created the issue of content and distribution.  It is a problem of what is determined as information and now seen as relevant in today’s society, along with who get to view this information.  Is everyone well informed or only a select few?  “The media has tremendous potential to inform citizens about events and issues in their world, they also have unparalleled potential for abuse by political partisans and commercial interests” as our book states on page 92.  Is what’s being produced and distributed done in a fair way?  Does the media discuss different viewpoints to properly inform society?

Instead of having pluralistic media that promotes diversity within its content which is readily available to society we have a media that is neither vertically or horizontally diverse.  Although there may be different bias attached to news reports that seems to be the only evident difference.  CNN and FOX  may be known for their strong Democratic or Republican views but ultimately they will end up repeating each other’s stories with no real viable information, it becomes he said she said.  As our book discussed, “the Fairness Doctrine  was established to promote serious coverage of public issues and to ensure diversity by preventing any single viewpoint from dominating coverage”.  The doctrine was not meant to be restraining but instead was meant to balance the field through additional speech and different viewpoints by requiring stations to provide other programming.  Yet in the end growth became equivalent to diversity.  As the news industry began to make more money and as the number of TV and radio stations increased the Fairness Doctrine lost its support and by 1987 the FCC eliminated it.

So to follow the pattern that seems to be developing, high profiting large conglomerates benefited greatly from the FCC’s decision while the everyday person began to receive less and less relevant information presented in a one-sided manner.  I believe that if the people/society were able to maintain a strong input in the context of the media the Fairness Doctrine would still be around today along with a more diverse news outlet. However, as humans we are subjective to our surrounding by nature.  To be objective you must go through the process of removing your own opinion from the facts, which is not something that is easily done especially when profit comes into play.  Our book discusses the fact that by “allowing the marketplace to exclusively determine the content of media can mean that only popular – and thus profitable – ideas are regularly heard and seen in commercial media”.  By eliminating the Fairness Doctrine it allowed for those with single-minded agendas to take root allowing for further political division to take place.  The system has removed the individual thought process; you are now feed information that can make the most profit while maintaining a particular ideology.

Net Neutrality: The Proper Forms of Regulation

            In order to regulate the constant flow of information, the government created the Federal Communications Commission. While the FCC pretty successfully regulates media such as radio, television, and music, the Internet is such a recent and evolving invention that the FCC has had trouble keeping up. The issue of net neutrality is a perfect example. Net neutrality is the idea that broadband providers should treat all data on the Internet equally and so should not be able to discriminate by user or content. The courts ruled that broadband companies do not have to honor net neutrality, although the FCC has a lot of legislation regarding “fairness” within media outlets. The holding was based off a technicality because the Internet is not currently mentioned in the FCC’s regulation. This means that, theoretically, leading broadband providers such as Comcast could charge consumers extra for certain programs such as Netflix or else slow the connection down to a minuscule speed.

            Many people are highly invested in this issue because it has the potential to affect almost everyone. The Internet service providers are concerned about the issue because they could make a lot of money off of charging people to use certain channels or programs. Additionally, companies such as Netflix have the potential to make less money because companies such as Comcast could charge them to provide their services to consumers. These extra prices could also be passed down to consumers, giving them a large stake in the matter. The court case makes it very clear that the Internet service providers think that they should not have to honor net neutrality. They believe that they should be able to control the speed and access of any type of contact. The FCC, on the other hand, was on the other side so obviously believes the content should be regulated. While the proper regulations, as ruled by the court, are not currently in the legislation, the FCC could potentially add to it in order to include the Internet.

            Overall, I think if Internet service providers are allowed to ignore the concept of net neutrality, then prices for consumers would be outrageous. I think the FCC should and will add an amendment to include the Internet in their legislation. I think it is unfair to allow broadband providers to regulate their content and that people should be able to access most content without discrimination. 

Money vs. Morality: The War on Advertising Accuracy

      Living in today’s society, it is almost impossible to escape the constant onslaught of advertising. Print ads, television ads, radio ads, and, most recently, internet ads bombard the brain with extreme frequency. Because advertising is such a large part of and has such a great impact on our lives, its content is a hot topic. Many agencies, such as the FCC and FTC, have formed in order to regulate the advertising industry, but even with regulations in place, there is great debate over the content that advertisers should and should not be able to use. In this debate, there are two main side: that of the business and that of the consumer. 

     From the perspective of the business, advertising provides a way to sell a product or idea. Because of this, it makes sense that I business would attempt to lure potential customers in by the most effective means necessary. This may mean blurring the lines of accuracy and morality in order to make a product more appealing. From this point of view, advertising is not about ethics, but rather the main goal is effectiveness. 

     On the other side of the coin, however, you have the perspective of the consumer. When deciding what products to buy, consumers must place a certain amount of trust in the advertisements put out by the companies selling the products. To the customer, advertisements provide a window into products, ideas, and the companies behind them. Thus, customers desire advertisements to be truthful. 

     In this battle, I side with the consumer. This is due to the fact that I am a consumer and expect a certain standard from companies attempting to sell to me, as well as my overall believe that there are moral values companies should be compelled to align with. Because so many citizens have this same opinion, the FTC, FCC, and other agencies help hold companies accountable for their advertisements for the benefit of consumers. Issues these organizations address include, the accuracy of the information advertisements provide, ethical concerns of the advertisements, and amount of advertising time. Although business’ may be constrained by these rules, such as not being able to have the most effective advertisements because of time or content restrictions, they provide numerous benefits for society overall. For one, each of us, including those in the advertising and business industries, are consumers. Thus, each of us benefits from more accurate information when deciding what to buy. Furthermore, regulations regarding ethical issues, such as advertising to children and advertising for certain vices (tobacco, alcohol, etc.), are beneficial because they reduce the possible negative influences advertising can have. Because exposure to advertising is so constant in our society, the ideas expressed in advertisements have a huge impact on our thinking. Therefore, the less detrimental ideas we are exposed to, the less of an impact they will have on us. Thus, although regulations are not favorable for companies, the services they provide are crucial for consumers and society as a whole. 

Sources

Media/Society by David Croteau and William Hoynes 

 

The End of the Web as We Know It?

Net Neutrality can be defined as the principle that Internet service providers have to treat all the data that is on the Internet the same. So this basically this means companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast (Internet Service Providers; ISP’s) are not allowed discriminate on any site based on content, its users, etc. Until recently Net Neutrality is a rule that the ISP’s in the United States had to abide by thanks to the FCC. However, a judge recently struck down what little control over Net Neutrality the FCC had. Thus making big companies like Verizon, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast the new gatekeepers of the Internet.

Advocates for Net Neutrality are worried that without it these large companies will block or even slow down the content that they don’t own or whatever they would choose. While opponents of Net Neutrality claim that these ISP’s have no plans block content or lower network performance. However, there have been signs that the ISP’s will start doing that seeing as Comcast has already slowed peer-to-peer (P2P) communications with other companies beginning to do the same. Opponents also say that with the FCC controlling Net Neutrality there are many privacy concerns. With the FCC controlling the Internet it makes it easier for the government to view what you are doing on the Internet. Unfortunately, these big companies will also be able to monitor what you’re doing on the Internet and use it for their financial advantage.

With Net Neutrality controlled by the FCC the people that benefited were the creators and the users. But with it now controlled by the ISP’s, the ISP’s are who benefit because they are the ones that can and may make a profit.

These ISP’s are not only in the Internet Service Provider business but they are also in the media business, so there is nothing stopping them from picking favorites when it comes to you accessing the web. This cut of Net Neutrality also hurts creators, if these ISP’s decide to block sites and have people pay more or even the creators pay more to view them, that money doesn’t go to the website it goes straight to the company. Its technically cutting off the audience of these sites thus cutting the income these sites receive. Granted none of this has actually started yet and may not, but without Net Neutrality it does give them that power.

Take this for example if we pay for electricity in our house why should the electricity companies decide what we do with our electricity. Same with paying for water and gas, they can’t take away your right to do with it as you please as long as you pay. So, why should paying for Internet be any different?

 

Sources

Regulating Ownership of Network Programming: The Rise of Major Media Conglomerates

Category: Ownership & Control

Issue: Regulating Ownership of Network Programming

Originally, the FCC’s fin-syn system was implemented in 1970, which was the FCC’s financial interest and syndication rules for the regulation of ownership and control of television programming.  These fin-syn regulations were enacted to limit the “ability of the 3 major TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) to acquire financial interests or syndication rights in the television programming” as well as “to limit network control over television programming and thereby encourage the development of a diversity of programs through diverse sources of program services. (FCC 1995)” (Croteau & Hoynes 87).

However, in 1993 the U.S. district court ruled in favor of relaxing the fin-syn regulations so that the networks were not subject to these regulations because the competition between cable stations and the materialization of new networks prevented the large media conglomerates from monopolizing production and syndication (Croteau & Hoynes 87).  The U.S. district courts ruled this way because of the new changes in technology that started happening in the early to mid 1990’s.

Now, networks can acquire financial interests in and syndication rights to all network programming. This encouraged vertical integration; networks turned to studios that they owned or their corporate partners owned to produce more of their programming.  The large media conglomerates argued that “monopolistic control is no longer possible because we live in a diverse world with many options” (Croteau & Hoynes 88).  However, this is not the case.

By relaxing the old fin-syn regulations, major media conglomerates that owned many media outlets flourished, especially those that owned their own studios.  Independent and smaller media producers were constrained and even harmed by the relaxation of the old fin-syn regulations.  This is because major media conglomerates, like ABC, NBC, Fox, and CW were able to produce 90% of the series on major networks as well as being able to have financial interests in half of all of the prime-time programming. (Croteau & Hoynes 88).

The main debate between structure and agency in this case is that the “structure that protects the media industry’s copyright claims also constrained it’s ability to produce and resell its products” (Croteau & Hoynes 88). While “the agency of the media industry is seen in its ability to promote changes that favored the major networks” (Croteau & Hoynes 88).  Basically this debate between structure and agency in this case is that the same regulatory structure that protected the media industry copyright laws made it harder for those media industries to produce and sell its products while the actions of the media industry started to create regulations to favor the larger media conglomerates.

The regulation in question is the FCC’s fin-syn regulation, which was uplifted in 1993, which ruled that networks were not subject to this regulation anymore because of the new advancements in technology.  If the regulation was written in favor of the ‘other side,’ which in this case would be independent and smaller media producers, then more small and independent networks would still have the ability to make independent TV and cable stations.  The smaller networks would then have a equal chance against the large conglomerates networks that take up a lot of the prime-time programming slots because it does not cost as much for them. This is because the major media conglomerate vertically integrated with their studios, that either they owned or that their corporate partners owned, to produce more of their programming.

A suggestion I have for altering the regulation to improve them would be to go back to something similar to the FCC’s fin-syn system because the FCC’s fin-syn system initially imposed constraints on networks (mainly large media networks) so they could not monopolize or oligopolize network programming.  My recommendation is to impose a regulation that does not allow network companies, large or small, to acquire all financial interests and syndication rights to all network programming.  This would make the large media conglomerates not be able to use their own or their partners’ studios to produce more of their programming, which would require the large media conglomerates to pay another studio to produce their programming.  I think that this would not necessarily equal the playing field of network programming between small and large networks because the major media conglomerates already have a lot of money, so they are probably still able to take up a lot of the networking and prime-time slots, while the small and independent media producers were harmed from the inaction of the fin-syn regulations, and probably can not afford to show their programming in prime-time slots.  However it would give the small or independent media producers a higher chance of being able to get their programming on television, and therefore steadily making more money so that they can compete for TV time slots.

Source Cited:

Croteau, D. & Hoynes, W. (2014). Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences. Thousand Oaks, California. SAGE Publications.

The FCC and Radio Ownership

Have you ever been driving in your car listening to your favorite radio station and noticed that the frequency was probably something like 97.3 or 104.7 and that when you go down to the lower channels like 89.1 they are static?

That’s because the more popular stations pay more to broadcast at higher frequencies with less static. While government regulation of media ownership and control has become more dominant in the scope of the Internet, radio regulation is still being heavily enforced.

As a result of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, a single entity could only own up to 20 FM and AM stations. Today though, there is no limit to radio station ownership, thus the concentration and distribution of media is limited.

Like the pirate radio renegades from the 1960s in Europe, the United States has their own set of pirates, but instead of advocating for political freedom and more Beatles music, these pirates are mostly broadcasting about their niche networks, hobbies and favorite tunes.

It is people like Doug Brewer from Chapter 3 (a.k.a. Craven Moorehead), a Florida resident who was illegally broadcasting his “Tampa’s Party Pirate” station to everyone, that is an advocate for the “pirate radio” system.

The FCC came into Brewer’s home and confiscated his material that he was using to broadcast on. The FCC, government and the media network’s main argument for shutting down these pirate radio stations is that the unlicensed signals will interfere or drown out their other broadcasting channels, as well as other forms of communication like cell phones and TV signals.

On the other hand, people like Brewer argue that low frequency stations do not pose any threat to the higher powered stations and instead, it is the corporations that want to keep the smaller stations out.

One key point of this discussion is that, “if Brewer had produced a magazine or a website, he would have been protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment,” (Croteau, Hoynes p 79).

This is one of the main reasons why I think the FCC should improve their stance on “pirate radio” by giving out licensing to smaller micro stations because it will ensure that they are still being “regulated” in everyone’s best interest, but it will also allow the smaller stations to have airwaves.

The FCC and the other commercial broadcasters need to come to an agreement but the hardest part about ensuring equal opportunity of the airwaves, is that companies and corporations have control due to lobbying power to make executive decisions to keep smaller radio stations from getting licenses.

If pirate radio operators are forced into radio retirement, how are the little guys supposed to succeed?