Monday, September 26, 2011

Diversity as a Requirement in Broadcasting

The case for a greater inclusion of diversity within broadcast media as purported by the FCC is in slight contradiction with its founding ideology. The diversity requirement is implied from a passage written 70 years ago that states, holders of broadcast licenses are compelled to serve the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” Such a requirement is said to have originated from capitalist principles, including protection of free speech and an ideal version of marketplace of ideas. Unfortunately such a basis of ideology intertwined with capitalism assumes that a marketplace of ideas will in fact emerge. For television studios however, a marketplace of ideas does not always suit profits – diversity is held hostage to ratings. Pandering media to constituents with little monetary influence hardly makes economic sense. While, in my opinion, the FCC is in the right to encourage diversity by regulation, it may not want to base its reasoning on a capitalistic model.

Furthermore, diversity centrally involves the principles of public interest, convenience and necessity. With greater numbers of the public exposed to unique ideas, stories, or cultural aspects it can help to create a greater awareness of their surroundings. Diversity also serves the necessity of minority groups for both information and entertainment. Without such regulation, and the lack of means to purchase varying cable packages, minority groups would find it very hard to access content that related to them.

Defining what exactly diversity is, while not easy, is easier than determining its value. Does value stem from the actual quality of the diverse programming or is it simply a matter of a broad range? If people are not happy with the diversity within the media is it always because there is not enough or does it stem from the lack of effort being put into creating “diverse” shows that are known not to make money? The greatest problem with value is that it is in the eye of the beholder – networks version of value is directly in opposition to those of minority groups.

**Diversity always makes for some corny pictures representing what people believe it should be (see picture on top).

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