Keep media marketplace open to competition | NevadaAppeal.com

Keep media marketplace open to competition

Nevada Appeal editorial board

The First Amendment works because its underlying principle is a “marketplace of ideas,” allowed to flow freely without interference from government.

When it comes to the press, however, the free flow of information can collide with monopoly ownership of media outlets, especially in specific markets and especially over the public airwaves.

That’s why we agree with an unlikely mix of liberal and conservatives groups who are asking the Federal Communication’s Commission on Monday to vote down a deregulation plan which would end the ban in most cities of cross-ownership of television stations and newspapers.

Newspaper companies such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune would likely buy up more electronic outlets under the relaxed rules, and giant media companies like Viacom, Disney and AOL Time Warner could control TV stations with nearly half the national audience.

If there’s any question how centralized ownership will affect the national discourse, listen to radio. With the FCC’s permission, three companies now own half the stations in America. Local news and local flavor are a thing of the past in many markets.

“The overwhelming amount of news and entertainment comes via broadcast and print,” notes conservative columnist William Safire. “Putting those outlets in fewer and bigger hands profits the few at the cost of the many.

“Does that sound unconservative? Not to me. The concentration of power — political, corporate, media, cultural — should be anathema to conservatives.

“The diffusion of power through local control, thereby encouraging individual participation, is the essence of federalism and the greatest expression of democracy.”

The issue stretches to both ends of the political spectrum, where groups who are often the most passionate about their causes fear they will get cut out of the debate entirely.

“For instance,” reported the Washington Post, “for the first time a group known as ‘Code Pink, Women for Peace’ finds itself on the same side of a fight as the National Rifle Association.”

Both are opposing the new FCC rules, with the NRA asking its 4 million members to contact FCC commissioners and urge them to vote against easing the ownership rules, “for the sake of our democracy.”

The Nevada Appeal is one of 25 newspapers owned by a private, family-run corporation based in Reno. Each newspaper maintains an independent editorial voice — with never a directive from the company on how it covers news or what opinions its editors should espouse, including this editorial.

A true marketplace of ideas can exist only if consumers have a wide variety of choices. The FCC can help keep the media market open by making sure it’s not monopolized by a few megacorporations.