Media Regulation in the United States

Picture of By Aakansha Gupta

By Aakansha Gupta

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”48″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]T[/mks_dropcap]he capacity of the media to reach out to the people has grown tremendously with the rapid stride in communication technology and increasing integration of the world markets. One of the main strategic responses to technological change is the move to create large, vertically integrated media conglomerates. But one must acknowledge the lack of diversity and increase in dominance that will be caused by this action. Audiences are concerned about the kind of content they are consuming or the lack thereof. A central issue in the health of democracy concerns the vibrancy of civil society, and a key issue for this is the problem of information. The problem of how the mass media is controlled, therefore, is a fundamental problem for a democratic society.

An interesting country to examine the above-mentioned examination of regulation of the media industries, would be the United States of America. As a well-established super power, the media industries of the states are extremely instrumental in shaping the voices and opinions occurring world-wide. Thus it is important to understand how the media conglomerates are regulated by the American government in the television industry and eventually lead to the formation of public opinion of the most influential country of the world. The media sector of USA is also undergoing many recent developments which could really change the country’s media landscape and how it functions. This will be briefly discussed further in this article.

What are the existing media policies?
The main media ownership policies in the United States consisted of limiting vertical integration for preventing media consolidation in the cable industry. They were regulated on the basis of the Communications Act of 1934.  This act’s main agenda was for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to regulate the cable and broadcasting industry. Three salient policy goals of this commission are to achieve diversity, competition and localism in public interest. There are a few main rules that limit the cable industry.

The first is the National Television Ownership Limit, where an individual or a corporation can own multiple stations. But they can be a source to not more than 39% of the country’s television audience. The second rule is the Dual Network Ban, which implies that none of the major networks can merge together. Two other important rules are The Local Television Ownership Limit and Television Cross Ownership Limit.

The government has some arbitrary powers themselves

Who regulates the Media?
The main authorities responsible for the drawing up, implementing and monitoring of policies in the newspaper sector of the country, is the U.S. Federal communications commission. The Agenda of the FCC is set by a chairperson who is directly elected by the president and thus shows that it stands independent of change in governments. However, it is not the only body that influences the final policy. As the government has some arbitrary powers themselves and the arbitrary powers of the government are further influenced by the demands of the public. As there are carious checks and balances on the FCC by the Congress. Therefore, the official body in command would be the lawmakers, but these decisions are indirectly influenced by the popular opinion of the public.

Progression or problematic?
A critical take on anything new is advisable and in this case, very necessary. There is a plausible issue, regarding the upcoming debate in the public sphere which has a critical take on the FCC’s assistance in creating vertically integrated conglomerates in the cable industry. Recent news mentions the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is planning to review the law that hinders media companies from owning news stations and newspaper in the same market. This received popular criticism about how it would allow certain industries to dominate the market while USA is clearly a democracy. This phenomena leaves the policy and it’s policymakers up for discussion as the existing policy is framed as outdated.

Another incident that has the potential to become an important issue, would be the government starting its own television network as president Trump was unhappy with the way CNN reported about his administration. As a result of his frustration, there was a heated press conference with the CNN about the same and the reporter almost lost his credential until they sued the administration for violating the reporter’s First and Fifth Amendment rights, and a federal judge ordered the White House to restore the reporter’s credentials. However, the government is powerful enough to start a Television channel of its own regardless of an external news agency triggering the need. This development could bias the audience in their opinion based on the content provided by such a station and limit the diversification of the people’s opinion.

Cover: Michal Ludwiczak / Final Editor: Fabian Bais

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