A few posts ago, we talked about what we’d like to see in a new National Endowment for the Arts Chair. Well, that’s not the only top vacancy at a federal agency that impacts the music community. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is about to say farewell to its current Chair, Julius Genachowski (see our statement here). Since the announcement of Genachowski’s departure, there’s been a lot of chatter regarding his replacement.
News media reports indicate that venture capitalist and former telecommunications industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler may be nominated tomorrow. (Update 5/1/13: It’s official. President Obama has announced that Wheeler is his pick.) FMC isn’t in the prediction business, but we do have a strong sense of what kind of leadership at the FCC would be the most meaningful for the music community.
We’re pleased to learn that FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will be filling in as acting Chair until the confirmation process is finished. That said, there’s a lot of work to be done at the FCC that will extend well past an interim transition. Here are some of the basic values like to see championed by the next Chair, interim and beyond.
The FCC is tasked with promoting competition, localism and diversity in our broadcast landscape, including radio — which is still where a great many people discover music. Ever since the 1996 Telecommunications Act lifted the caps of the number of stations a single corporation could own, we’ve seen the commercial dial become homogenized, with next to no diversity in programming or station ownership. The result has been devastating for a majority of local and regional musicians who have little opportunities to crack playlists, regardless of talent or popularity. FMC has fought for more than a decade to hold the line on further consolidation, all the while promoting policies to nurture the noncommercial broadcasting sector. While we are encouraged by developments such as the FCC’s upcoming licensing window for Low Power FM stations in bigger markets, we know there is still a great deal to be done to ensure that radio reflects a broader range of American musical expression. The only way to achieve this is to make localism and diversity a true priority at the Commission, and this doesn’t happen without leadership from the FCC Chair.
Although his record is decidedly mixed, Chairman Genachowski should be praised for his efforts to ensure that the internet remains open to innovation and creative entrepreneurship. We could probably split hairs about whether the Commission’s Open Internet Order (currently facing a court challenge from Internet Service Providers like Verizon) went far enough to preserve a level playing field online — particularly on the mobile side. The FCC will no doubt continue to face challenges regarding its authority to do anything productive regarding broadband internet, and we believe that these challenges are best met by visionary leadership from the next Chair. There’s simply too much at stake to get it wrong. FCC leadership must be committed to:
- Increased broadband deployment to connect more artists to audiences and expand the legitimate digital marketplace.
- Greater access to mobile spectrum for innovation and creative entrepreneurship
- True competition among broadband service providers
- A level playing field that encourages innovation and creative entrepreneurship.
We’re hopeful that, no matter who takes over for Genachowski, that these core values are a central part of the FCC agenda. As has been the case for the past twelve years, FMC is ready and able to demonstrate what’s at stake for musicians and the creative sector. But we’ll need your help. Are you ready to make a difference?