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 V.15 No.26 | June 29 - July 5, 2006 

Thin Line

The Good Race--When people whine about “the media,” they talk about it as though it's one thing, one voice, one man with a bullhorn and a huge distribution base at his disposal.

Those of us who've chosen to be a cog in the media wheel know it's more like a crazy million-man or -woman race, a mess of feet and hands and mouths scrambling to cobble together information in digestible packages. Competition spurs diversity in this game. No one wants to redo a story their competition already dished out. Reporters and storytellers are always adding, reframing or digging up a new tale to tell, which means what you, the reader and digester of news, hear from "the media" should be a cacophony.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), weighted to the right these days, is once again opening up a can of worms on a rule that, in essence, levels the playing field for that crazy race. The FCC's review of media ownership regulations began Wednesday, June 21.

As the rules stand today, a broadcaster cannot own more than one TV or radio station in a small market. A company cannot own a newspaper and a radio or TV station in one market. Of the top four major networks, two cannot be owned by the same company.

If you've heard about this stuff before, it's because the FCC tried to do something similar in 2003, but an appeals court threw a wrench in the works. The review that started last week has a public comment period of four months, though we might not see results for a year or more.

In a world where media outlet chains are quickly becoming the norm, relaxing these restrictions on individual markets is a rotten idea. Supporters of lighter rules say the market has changed, that competition can fend for itself. Opponents know it's nothing but trouble, a change that would threaten local content and put the hurt on independent voices.

It's hard to envision an Albuquerque where the same people who own the Journal also own a couple of our television stations and a fistful of our radio stations. Would they still be vying for the best stories on each, or would the company cut both staffs in half and demand they begin sharing information? Slowly, that cacophony would begin to jell as one, redundant voice. The result would not be pretty.

 
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