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Taking Back the Airwaves. Are The Media Serving the Public Interest?. Ron Cooper Sacramento Media Group www.commoncause.org. What We’ll Cover. Sacramento Media Group and its mission Responsibility of the FCC in preserving our public interest Critical issues in media reform

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taking back the airwaves

Taking Back the Airwaves

Are The Media Serving the Public Interest?

Ron Cooper

Sacramento Media Group


what we ll cover
What We’ll Cover
  • Sacramento Media Group and its mission
  • Responsibility of the FCC in preserving our public interest
  • Critical issues in media reform
  • How you can make a difference
who we are
Who We Are
  • We are a non-profit, non-partisan citizens' lobby organization
  • Established in 2003 by volunteer community members
  • Today’s members include activists from many organizations including the League of Women Voters , Access Sacramento Community Media Center, and other community-minded groups
our mission

SMG believes that independent, diverse media are essential to the health of American democracy.

Our Mission

We advocate on issues related to print, broadcast, and Internet media

  • Oppose concentration of media ownership
  • Denounce “fake news”
  • Preserve funding for public, education and government access to airwaves
  • Monitor corporate media and their regulatory bodies
  • Increase community awareness of critical broadcast and Internet issues
what we want you to know
What We Want You to Know

A Handful Of Companies Dominate The Media Market

  • These companies:
    • Use the public airwaves at no charge – worth an estimated $750B
    • Have powerful special interest lobbiesin Washington, DC
    • Control the flow of ideas and informationto our homes

As a result, we have less information to make the important decisions that affect our families, communities, state, and country.

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FCC and Media Control

federal communication commission fcc

The FCC gave broadcasters the privilege of using public airwaves free in exchange for an obligation to serve the “public interest, convenience, and necessity.”

Federal Communication Commission (FCC)
  • Established as an independent US government agency by the Communications Act of 1934.
  • Charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.
  • Directed by 5 commissioners appointed by the president for 5 year terms; only 3 may be of the same political party.
has the public interest been served


Broadcasters abandoned voluntary code of conduct which established standards through industry self-regulation.


FCC repealed provisions of the Fairness Doctrine requiring broadcasters to provide reasonable opportunities for contrasting/dissenting views


FCC eliminated requirements of broadcasters to reach out to public to determine community needs.


Telecommunications deregulation bill allowed further ownership consolidation in radio and television markets.


FCC created “postcard renewal process,” throwing aside detailed review of whether broadcasters meet obligations.

Has the Public Interest Been Served?
more media control in fewer hands
More Media Control in Fewer Hands

The Telecommunications Act of 1996:

  • Lifted the 40 station limit on the number of radio stations one company could own.

It made possible the creation of radio giants like Clear Channel with more than 1200 stations.

  • Lifted the 12 station limit on the number of local TV stations any one corporation could own.

Today just 6 companies control 75% of all prime-time viewing

  • Deregulated cable rates.

Between 1996 and 2003, rates increased nearly 50%

  • Extended term of a broadcast license from 5 to 8 years.

Made it more difficult for citizens to challenge license renewals.

Source: The Fallout From the Telecommunications Act of 1996: Unintended Consequences and Lessons Learned, Common Cause, May 2005.

more media control in fewer hands1
More Media Control in Fewer Hands

Number of corporations that control a majority of U.S. Media

Source: Ben Bagdikian’s The Media Monopoly, 2004

today 6 corporations control the media scene
Today 6 Corporations Control the Media Scene

Partial listing of media organizations owned in full or part

For more information, go to: http://stopbigmedia.com/chart.php

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Critical Issues in Media Reform

  • Media Monopolies
  • Public Interest Obligations (PIO) of Broadcasters
  • Net Neutrality
  • “Fake News”
  • Protecting & Expanding Community Media
  • Expanding Access to Media in Low Income & Rural Communities
  • Political coverage by local TV stations
  • Sacramento WiFi
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Together We Can Make a Difference

smg helps you stay connected aware
SMG Helps You Stay Connected & Aware

Look to the Sacramento Media Group

  • As a resource for media issues
  • As a place to meet with other media activists

First Monday of each month

6:00 – 8:00 pm.

Coloma Community Center

  • For current monitoring of local broadcasters and their PIO obligation
  • For current media matters posted on our website

For more information, contact:

JoAnn Fuller, Sacramento Media Group


(916) 443-1792

smg helps you stay connected aware1
SMG Helps You Stay Connected & Aware

Navigate to: http://www.commoncause.org

  • Select your state
  • Select Media Reform > Sacramento Media Group
additional resources
Additional Resources




you provide the action
You Provide the Action
  • Join Sacramento Media Group
  • Write to your local TV station
  • Get involved with local community media
  • Contact Congress & the FCC to register your concerns
  • Share this information with others

Remember, the airwaves belong to you!

sacramento tv coverage election nov 2006
Sacramento TV Coverage: Election Nov. 2006
  • Scope of Project
  • Urge local television stations to meet the national benchmark* of a minimum of 5 minutes of candidate-focused, election-issue discussion per evening for 30 days preceding an election.
    • *Set by the bipartisan Presidential Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters (PIAC).
  • SMG Goals
  • Analyze and report stations’ performance against above standards.
  • Analyze and report on content in station public files, required by the FCC, including revenues from political advertising during 2006 election.
  • Participate in a local television news monitoring investigation sponsored by California State University, Sacramento

Source: Sacramento Television Coverage of the November 2006 General Election: A Public Interest- Public Airways Community Project, Sacramento Media Group, November 2007.

content of public files
Content of Public Files

Political Advertising for Statewide Offices

Figures in millions of dollars

sacramento tv coverage election nov 20061
Sacramento TV Coverage: Election Nov. 2006
  • Key Findings
  • Only one Sacramento station, Channel 3, met the minimum PIAC standard of 5 minutes per night of election-related coverage during the 30 days before Election Day on Nov. 7, 2006
  • The race for governor received the most coverage, 34%, though the race was not considered to be competitive during the final month
  • Public files at all stations were of limited use in evaluating how well the stations were meeting their FCC mandated public interest obligations.
  • During the period from Sept. through Election Day, the 5 local broadcasters received an estimated total of $32 million in political advertising

Source: Sacramento Television Coverage of the November 2006 General Election: A Public Interest- Public Airways Community Project, Sacramento Media Group, November 2007.