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Inclusion or Illusion? An Analysis of the FCC's Public Hearings on Media Ownership 2006-2007

Jonathan A. Obar

York University; Quello Center - Michigan State University

Amit M. Schejter

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Pennsylvania State University

March 4, 2008

In 2006-2007 the Federal Communications Commission held six public hearings across the country in an attempt to fully involve the public in a re-evaluation of the rules governing media ownership in the United States. The hearings took place in: Los Angeles/El Segundo, CA; Nashville, TN; Harrisburg, PA; Tampa, FL; Chicago, IL; and Seattle, WA. This study addresses whether the FCC did indeed fully involve the public in their deliberations, what the public said at the hearings, and whether the public's input contributed to the design of the policy. All 44 plus hours of the hearings were assessed, all 732 public comments were content analyzed and the FCC's Report and Order was reviewed. The results reveal that the FCC consistently hindered public participation; hearing notice was often provided last-minute, the hearings were held at inconvenient times for working people to attend and the structure of the hearings subordinated public comment by providing preferential treatment to experts, stakeholders and dignitaries. Two hearings actually devoted more time to non-public comment than to public testimony. In addition, a quarter of the members of the public registered to speak left before testifying likely due to the structure and length of the hearings. Of the 732 that did speak, 52.6 percent were against media consolidation and/or deregulation, while only 1.4 percent were in support. The final Report & Order reflects the same subordination as hardly any reference is made to public comment from the hearings, even though the hearings themselves are highlighted in the report as a groundbreaking element in the rulemaking process.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

Keywords: FCC, media ownership, public participation, public hearing process

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Date posted: March 6, 2008 ; Last revised: March 19, 2008

Suggested Citation

Obar, Jonathan A. and Schejter, Amit M., Inclusion or Illusion? An Analysis of the FCC's Public Hearings on Media Ownership 2006-2007 (March 4, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1102764 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1102764

Contact Information

Jonathan A. Obar (Contact Author)
York University ( email )
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Quello Center - Michigan State University ( email )
East Lansing, MI 48824
United States
Amit M. Schejter
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )
Beer--Sheva, 84105
Pennsylvania State University ( email )
106 Carnegie
College of Communications
University Park, PA 16802
United States
814-865-3717 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.personal.psu.edu/ams37/
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