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Local Media Diversity Matters: Measure Media Diversity According to Democratic Values, Not Market Values

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In June 2006, the Federal Communications Commission opened a rulemaking proceeding that at least in part was a response to its failed 2002 effort to allow the nation’s big media conglomerates to further concentrate their control over local print, radio, and television markets in the United States. The 2002 decision by the FCC was denounced by members of the public across the political spectrum, limited in scope by Congress, and in the end sent back for reconsideration by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

As the court said in the case, “The FCC’s delegated responsibility to foster a robust forum for national debate is unique in administrative law and essential to the vibrancy of our deliberative democracy.” The court then issued a withering critique of the FCC’s analysis, arguing, among other things, that the Commission “entirely failed to consider” the problem of minority ownership.