Yesterday, we told you that FMC Education Director Kristin Thomson would be appearing on a "public interest panel" at as part of the FCC's Media Ownership Workshops. And this morning, she did. As expected, Kristin's presentation went smashingly.
Kristin joined Ken Ferree (Senior Fellow, The Progress and Freedom Foundation), Cheryl Leanza (Policy Director, The Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ), Andy Schwartzman (President and CEO, Media Access Project, on behalf of Prometheus Radio Project) and S. Derek Turner (Research Director), Free Press to talk about the analytical frameworks the FCC should consider as it prepares to once again undertake media ownership rulemaking proceedings.
FMC's statement concerned the need for the FCC to collect data to better understand an industry it's tasked with regulating. As Kristin said in our hot-off-the-presses media advisory: "Our studies of station ownership consolidation since the 1996 Telecom Act have shown massive consolidation of ownership, revenue and audiences to large station group owners, increasingly homogenized music formats, and tremendous barriers for artists seeking airplay. The only way for things to improve is for the FCC to understand what's happening in this sector. Which is why collecting more and better data is so important."
Every four years, the FCC begins a proceeding to determine whether its media ownership rules -- how many outlets or broadcast stations a single entity can own in a given market, etc. -- to determine if they still serve the public interest. Of particular importance is how the media ownership rules fit with the Commission's stated goals of localism, competition and diversity.
Kristin's statement included recommendations for the Commission that would improve its ability to collect relevant data while reducing the submission burden on broadcast licensees. In order to collect this information from station owners in a timely and accurate fashion, FMC suggests that the FCC should "build a modern data management system that is flexible, uses relational databases to connect it all together, and makes a majority of fields searchable and all queries downloadable," according to FMC's statement. "This would greatly improve the Commission's ability to conduct proper oversight, to more efficiently conduct high-quality research and allow outside access to similar data. . . FMC urges the Commission to seize this moment to undertake a drastic overhaul of its data management system."
The point isn't to create a hassle for broadcast station owners, but rather to find a way for the FCC to better understand the marketplace so it can measure the effects of its policies. By streamlining its data collection protocols, asking the right questions and utilizing technology, the Commission should be able to arrive at something that works for station owners as well as the public interest.
We're really glad that the FCC taken the time to hold workshops like this before undertaking their proceedings, and are pleased to be involved in the discussions. We'll keep you updated as all of this plays out; in the meantime, if you want to get caught up on the state of the radio industry and what ownership consolidation has meant for musicians and indie labels, check out the radio studies on our Research page.