Inclusion or Illusion? An Analysis of the FCC's Public Hearings on Media Ownership 2006-2007
39 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2008 Last revised: 19 Mar 2008
Date Written: 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.
Keywords: FCC, media ownership, public participation, public hearing process
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