What does the FCC do? Discuss its current position on media consolidation.
The FCC stands for the Federal Communications Commission. They are a Federal Government agency that regulates all issues raised by the media within the fifty states of the USA and the District of Columbia. This includes radio, print media and all forms of television (wire, cable and satellite). They operate by providing leadership on legal matters and create national policies to support this industry. They also provide legal expertise on matters relating to communications law within the USA. Furthermore, as commission within the Government, they create policies about the role of media in the USA.
The FCC is a government agency which is overseen by Congress. It claims from its website that it is an independent commission. However, critics of the FCC claim that it is heavily influenced by current political climate, which has a marked effect on its tendencies to make certain types of decisions. For example, the current FCC is overseen largely by Republicans and the current chairman, Ajit Pai, was appointed by President Trump. Critics have said that it is unlikely that a particular government would appoint a leader who would oppose trends in policy.
So what exactly does the FCC do? They promote competition and investment among private telecoms companies for broadband, TV networks and print media. They encourage economic growth in the media industry. They provide leadership in creating policies and laws to encourage an improved infrastructure in today's vastly changing media world.
In relation to the second part of the question, the FCC have changed their stance on media consolidation. In the past there were laws in place to prevent single media companies from owning more than one type of media in a particular region. For example, a company could not own a TV news channel and an newspaper in New York city. However, last year, the FCC came under fire for encouraging companies to invest in this manner.
This follows a recent trend from the FCC of relaxing the rules on preventing media companies from gaining monopolies. This deregulating process has been favored by corporations who have been able to invest huge sums of money into the media. They believe this provides more stability. However, critics have pointed to the dangers of having only a few companies controlling the information that appears on peoples' screens, in print or on the radio. For example, Sinclair Broadcast Group control the media in around 70% of American households.
Therefore, the debate over media consolidation seems to be around what is good for business versus what is good for consumers. At the moment, it seems that the FCC's stance is to favor big business over the American consumers.