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Home > SPJ News > SPJ calls for additional hearings on media ownership rules

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SPJ calls for additional hearings on media ownership rules

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
5/12/2003


CONTACT:
Al Cross, SPJ Immediate Past President, 502/875-5136 ext. 14 or across@spj.org
Robert Leger, SPJ President, 417/836-1113 or rleger@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists calls on the Federal Communications Commission to hold additional public hearings on possible changes to limits on media ownership, and asks the American news media to devote additional attention to the issue.

While SPJ takes no position on this issue, which is being hotly debated in some quarters of the media community, we are concerned that the public has not been adequately informed about it.

In a recent poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, about three-fourths of Americans said they were unaware of the proposals. Those findings reflect the relative lack of coverage of this complex issue by the mainstream media.

We urge journalists and their supervisors to consider what Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism said in The New York Times, that the proposed changes “could reduce the independence of the news media and the ability of Americans to take part in public debate.”

On the other side of the coin, there are potential benefits, such as expanded audiences and more efficient allocation of journalistic resources through convergence of now-separate media platforms.

The issues are complicated. Supporters of change question whether any limits on ownership violate commercial broadcasters’ First Amendment rights, but there are also legitimate questions about what relaxation of ownership limits will do to diversity in the media.

Complex concerns such as these deserve more public attention, because they are of critical importance not just to journalism, but also to the democratic ideals of our republic.

SPJ, the only journalism membership organization that includes all media and includes all levels, from top managers to student journalists, takes no side here. But we call for more public hearings, and for additional coverage in keeping with our Code of Ethics, which says journalists should “invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct . . . abide to the same high standards to which they hold others,” and “be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.”

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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