FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2017
First FCC Vote of 2017 Impairs the Public’s Ability to Hold Broadcasters Accountable
Today, in a unanimous decision rendered during its first open meeting of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to eliminate the requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain copies of letter and emails from the public in a public inspection file known as the correspondence folder. The National Hispanic Media Coalition released the following statement from Carmen Scurato, director of policy and legal affairs:
“This is exactly the time that the public is looking to build trust with the media, fostering a productive dialogue that supports accurate coverage representative of diverse voices, and we are disappointed that the first FCC vote of 2017 deprives Americans of meaningful information about the scope of their community’s feedback.
“In allowing stations to eliminate the only publicly accessible means to understand how audiences across the country are responding to commercial broadcast coverage, the FCC does a tremendous disservice to all who seek to support journalism that fulfills the public interest obligation it holds. We are very concerned that continuing the current practice of putting letters and emails from the public in a file has been deemed too burdensome a task in the face of the urgent need for media accountability.
“Contrary to arguments submitted by FCC commissioners and industry representatives, the use of social media to find or report issues is not an adequate replacement for viewing the full breadth of input to commercial broadcast stations that are often mailed or emailed. This insufficient reply is especially more concerning when a full third of Americans–disproportionately Latinos and other people of color, lower-income and rural Americans–lack home broadband to submit feedback or view the extent of concerns submitted by their neighbors online.”
The correspondence folder has existed since 1973 and has been a key resource in campaigns for accurate and responsible media coverage. The National Hispanic Media Coalition has drawn upon letters and emails from Americans held in the correspondence folder to successfully hold media accountable for racist, misogynistic, and anti-LGBTQ programming.
Examples of the use of the correspondence folder include:
- “Jose Luis Sin Censura,” a crass, misogynist, anti-LGBTQ program that was found to have abused undocumented immigrants, was taken off the air as a result of the joint FCC complaint that NHMC’s filed with GLAAD in 2011. After NHMC’s 18-month campaign and the show’s removal from the airwaves, the broadcaster also paid a hefty fine and signed a behavior compliance plan with the FCC. This marked the first indecency action taken by the FCC since 2010, as well as the first since the Supreme Court questioned the FCC’s indecency policy in 2012. This settlement sent the message that the FCC’s indecency rules will be equally enforced against Spanish and English-language broadcasters.
- In 2012, Clear Channel Radio, now iHeartMedia, suspended the “John and Ken Show” and hired two Latino hosts after NHMC drew attention to the impact of their racist rants. NHMC worked with more than 30 other organizations to take John and Ken off the air with a public pressure campaign that included demonstrations to pressure companies like AT&T Wireless, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Verizon FIOS to withdraw their advertisements on the show.
Reply comments to the FCC from NHMC and five other civil rights and public interest organizations can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/2jmbBbl.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) is a media advocacy and civil rights organization for the advancement of Latinos, working towards a media that is fair and inclusive of Latinos, and towards universal, affordable, and open access to communications. Receive real-time updates on Facebook, Twitter @NHMC and Instagram @NHMC_org.