Attorney General Tong Joins 23-State Coalition Encouraging Diversity and Local Ownership in Broadcast Media
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong today joined a coalition of 23 attorneys general, led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine, opposing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that will weaken diversity and local ownership in broadcast media.
In an amicus brief filed in FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project before the U.S. Supreme Court, the attorneys general argue that the FCC’s new rules will decrease coverage of minority communities and local issues by leading to greater media consolidation. The coalition is asking the Supreme Court to affirm the Third Circuit’s holding that the FCC neglected to consider how repealing these rules would impact diversity in media ownership.
“A diverse and local media is an important bulwark of our democracy and an irreplaceable public service,” Attorney General Tong said. “The FCC is encouraging further consolidation of media companies, meaning less local and less diverse ownership. We need a diverse local media for so many reasons, but most importantly we need them to connect with every community and share important information, promote civic engagement, and be a watchdog for the people.”
Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC must review its rules every four years to determine whether there is enough competition among media outlets to preserve the public interest without the need for federal regulation. Since 2002, the FCC’s performance of its duties under that Act have come before the courts four times.
FCC v. Prometheus represents the fourth instance. The case focuses on several recent actions taken by the FCC scaling back many of the rules promoting diversity and local ownership of broadcast media.
Last year, the Third Circuit heard the case, eventually vacating the FCC’s actions because the Commission did not adequately consider the effects its new rules would have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities. The FCC has sought review in the Supreme Court, arguing that it took these impacts into account. A group of media conglomerates are part of the suit, claiming that the FCC should not design regulations to accommodate diversity.
In this amicus brief, the states argue that the FCC’s move was arbitrary and capricious and, specifically, that the conglomerates’ interpretation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is wrong. The coalition collectively supports diversity in broadcast media because:
• Diversity in media ownership is critical to civic engagement and healthy communities: Minority and women-owned broadcast media companies are more likely to provide a wider range of viewpoints across their programming and hire minority employees. This is vital to ensuring coverage of news relevant to minority communities. Diverse companies are also more likely to offer multilingual communications—the dearth of which has endangered residents in the face of natural disasters ranging from wildfires in California to Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, and Sandy.
• The FCC must remain committed to keeping local news local: The unmistakable trend of concentration in the media industry has coincided with a decline in minority ownership of broadcast media and in local news coverage. The industry petitioners would strip the FCC’s ability to establish regulations that preserve local ownership—leaving residents at risk of losing reliable local news sources. The states further offer a litany of reasons why local news is important to our state and local communities: it fosters community cohesion, stimulates civic engagement and voter turnout, checks government officials by ferreting out greed, corruption, and waste, and provides channels of communication during natural disasters and pandemics.
A copy of the amicus brief is available here.
AG Racine led the amicus brief and is joined by Attorney General Tong, and the attorneys general from California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.