Media Action Center is a group of of concerned residents throughout the U.S. led by former Emmy-winning broadcaster turned media reformer Sue Wilson. We have successfully influenced policy at the Federal Communications Commission and at local TV and Radio stations throughout the country for more than a decade to ensure We the People are truly served by the publicly owned airwaves. (See the archive of our work under "older posts.") Currently, We are running an action to label Alex Jones' radio show as the fiction it is, and are educating the Supreme Court in FCC v Prometheus Radio on critical information to #SaveLocalNews.

Find full journalistic coverage of the Supreme Court case and our Amicus brief, Sinclair Broadcasting's shell game, Alex Jones, the Strange v Entercom trial and other public interest media issues at SueWilsonReports.com. For background on how we arrived in this era of disinformation and what to do about it, see Wilson's 2009 documentary Broadcast Blues.

Supreme Court on FCC v. Prometheus Decision: Spotty Evidence? It's All We Have

April 1, 2021

 

Today, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Federal Communications Commission may allow one broadcast media group owner to have 2 network TV stations, plus 1-2 additional non-network stations, plus 8 radio stations AND the local newspaper - all in the same town.

In the opinion issued by Justice Kavanaugh, the court said the "FCC considered the record evidence and reasonably concluded that the three ownership rules at issue were no longer necessary to serve the agency’s public interest goals ..."

Prometheus Radio had argued that the FCC was relying on flawed or non-existent data to make that assessment. Kavanaugh wrote that "the FCC acknowledged the gaps in the data sets it relied on, and noted that, despite its repeated requests for additional data, it had received no countervailing evidence."

Cheryl Leanza, co-counsel in the case and the United Church of Christ's media justice policy advisor writes, "The sparse record is the FCC's own fault. Any analysis of this question must rely on the FCC's data and yet the FCC has long permitted broadcast licensees to avoid filing their ownership data with impunity."

This is the very reason Media Action Center performed its own study on the issue: there was no data whatsoever available about the existing impact of these rule changes.  The FCC used to commission its own studies on local broadcasting. In 2002, the FCC issued its own report called "Broadcast Television: Survivor in a Sea of Competition" which showed local TV stations in large markets were making as much as 46% profits. Now the FCC puts out obscure "Notice of Prospective Rulemaking" calls for consumers and largely underfunded non-profit groups to provide their own research to counter that which is provided to the FCC by well heeled industry leaders.

In our Amicus Brief in this case, we proved that in local communities where the FCC has already allowed such rules to take effect, local broadcasters are merely duplicating news content across 2-3 local TV stations, not providing more news as they promised the FCC, but effectively less.

Says Director Sue Wilson, "I am told that the proper place to have presented that information was to the FCC in its rulemaking process, and that the Supreme Court does not engage in fact-finding missions. I regret that obscure rulemaking call escaped my attention, but the fact still remains that the FCC allowing one broadcast group to control virtually all the local information provided to a single local community is a direct threat to our democracy."

How to Fix the Media - and Repair Democracy - in Ten Achievable Steps

 March 5, 2021

What can We the People DO to restore integrity to media? 

 When Media Action Center toured the nation with  Broadcast Blues in 2011, we inserted this short list inside our DVD cover so people could take action. 

We have already achieved some milestones:   

Media is now an issue.  

Broadcasters' public files are now online. 

They can't kill people on the radio and remain licensed to broadcast.                                             

Beyond this list, what's next?  

Let's advise those in government what steps they can (and must) take on our behalf.

 

STEP 1:   RESTORE THE RIGHT TO RESPOND

    The Fairness Doctrine, which the Federal Communications Commission threw out in 1987, said broadcasters must provide a "reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views." When that simple opportunity vanished, so too did civil discourse.  

    What we need now is to restore the simple Right to Respond.  If a radio or TV host attacks someone personally, that person should have the right to respond, to defend themselves on the same program where they have been attacked.  If a radio or TV show spends hours promoting one political viewpoint, someone else should have the right to respond, if only for a few unfettered minutes, in that same time slot. This is a simple way to provide true discourse, and it really is only common sense.

    HOW TO ACHIEVE THE RIGHT TO RESPOND:

        1. The FCC could simply create a new rule. However, as the leadership of the FCC changes with each new President, a different President's FCC could just eliminate that rule. There is a better way:

        2. Congress could pass legislation making the Right to Respond a law, not a whim


STEP 2: CREATE MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL VOICES

     Pioneering broadcasters recognized the imperative to democracy that many voices have access to microphones on our publicly owned airwaves. They found Congress agreed and quickly developed rules through the FCC that allowed one company to own no more than 3 AM radio stations and 3 FM radio stations nationwide. Over time, these rules relaxed so by Reagan's administration, one company could own 20 AM stations and 20 FM stations. 

     Then in 1996, the Telecommunications Act was changed so own owner could have as many radio stations across the nation as it could purchase, as many as eight stations in a single town.  In small communities, that means they get only one local radio news voice. In Minot, North Dakota, we learned how emergency alerts about a poisonous chemical spill did not get out to the town because the station was really being run from Texas, a thousand miles away. And in communities large and small in Everytown, USA, corporate radio stations blare Right Wing Talk Radio into homes, businesses and cars, and refuse to allow any other point of view on the air.

     In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission itself sued a community group striving to limit the number of local TV stations allowed to a single owner in a single town, even though the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the FCC on this issue since 2004. That case, FCC v Prometheus Radio has now reached the Supreme Court.  While Communications Law prohibits any one TV station owner from reaching more than 39% of the nation, the FCC's scheme would allow one corporation to potentially own the local newspaper, two network TV stations, a third or fourth non-network TV station, plus eight radio stations - all in the same community. It is not hard to imagine what damage would be done to democracy when a single nefarious owner could absolutely control all the messaging to a single town. Then multiply that scenario into cities and towns across the country, and we have a nightmare situation where disinformation prevails and independent local voices are entirely excluded.

    HOW TO CREATE MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL VOICES

        1. The FCC could simply create new rules disallowing such high concentrations of broadcast ownership within a single community. However, as the leadership of the FCC changes with each new President, a different President's FCC could just eliminate that rule. There is a better way:

        2.  Congress could pass legislation opening up the limited market of radio and TV stations to more entrants, not fewer. Congress has long abdicated its supervisorial communications role to the FCC. It is time for our Representatives to take its power back (and restore the peoples' voice back to We the People.)


STEP 3: LABEL BONA FIDE NEWS AS NEWS; LABEL OPINION AS OPINION


STEP 4: ESTABLISH TRUTH IN ADVERTISING LAWS FOR POLITICAL ADS

STEP 5: FORM LOCAL GOVERNANCE GROUPS IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES

STEP 6: MONETIZE NON-RIGHT WING INFORMATION

STEP 7: TEACH MEDIA LITERACY IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS - GRADE 3+

STEP 8: BALANCE MILITARY ZONE INFORMATION

STEP 9: GIVE TEETH TO LICENSE CHALLENGES 

STEP 10: MAKE BROADCASTING, NET NEUTRALITY AND SECTION 230 PART OF THE SAME COMMUNICATIONS ECOSYSTEM.

       


... to be continued ...

Media Action Center Files Amicus Brief at the Supreme Court in FCC v Prometheus Case

This Friend of the Court brief was filed December 23, 2020 on behalf of Sue Wilson and Media Action Center in the upcoming Supreme Court case FCC v Prometheus.

The Federal Communications Commission is trying to get blanket approval to allow one major TV station group (think Sinclair) to license two network TV stations in the same town. The regulatory agency (the FCC) say that means local towns will get better news coverage. However, a MAC survey finds that in markets where the FCC has already allowed such "duopolies," (against the order of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals,) the station groups are not reporting additional news content in local towns. They are merely reporting one set of stories and then running that same set on two Network TV stations, and sometimes a third non-network station. Remember, when one big company controls two or even three local TV stations, it means women, minorities, really anyone except the existing deep pocket players can not have even one station. 

Our goal is to educate the Supreme Court Justices that this is happening right now in local TV, so they can determine whether the FCC is making the proper decision, and more importantly, whether the FCC should be allowed to make such decisions at all.

Scroll down this page for our survey results. 

See the brief here:   

Media Action Center Amicus Brief to the US Supreme Court

Photographic Evidence that TV Station Groups are sharing news content on multiple stations:



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Top Broadcasters Controlling Two Local Network Affiliate Stations in Same Local Market

 December 19, 2020

 

MAC Survey of Local Market News Content

As we consider whether the FCC should change the rules concerning how many local TV stations one company may license in one community, Media Action Center wanted to know how many local markets (Designated Market Areas or “DMAs”) already have one station group owning more than one Top Four (network affiliate) station. If so, in which markets, what size of markets, the minority population of those markets, and whether those stations offer the same or different local news on their two separate network affiliates.

Media Action Center researched this question to demonstrate that local news operations often result very similar, if not identical, news coverage on multiple TV stations in a single local market. These combinations are not adding anything to local news coverage in these communities.

 

Methodology:

Media Action Center volunteers researched the top ten largest TV Station groups in the country as defined by total revenue to provide such data. The data we produced is subject to some interpretation, but at least provides a snapshot for consideration. Volunteers reviewed websites, copyright information and local news reports to identify patterns. The Data Tables for every station group are provided below with hyperlinks for easy access for readers to independently review the findings. This research is not peer reviewed but does offer baseline information to illustrate the current state of local news in the communities studied.



 
NEXSTAR
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o7KjXrH2576Mm1vu6kW63hPvu41NKlZZ

SINCLAIR BROADCASTING 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VSJiPmv8sgqbT_LJ-fiQmt1tGT0LkQVG

GRAY TV                                                                                                                        https://drive.google.com/file/d/1snw-ROVs0x_CaJwJ5HmAqAdasgXhgInQ

SCRIPPS                                                                                                                                     https://drive.google.com/file/d/1k7kNDzjN3OGzm69zQsuZEGXTBMpG_VkI

TEGNA
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YQfTwJFAwhIa93xx1jnazB7O_FbhgsHv