Sunday, September 25, 2011

Problems with Defining Diversity

For years the FCC and broadcasters have been on a quest to diversify all of the content they produce for consumers. While this may seem very fundamental the idea of diversity is very vague and trying to pinpoint its exact meaning is difficult. One of the biggest reasons Einstein gives for this is the conflict between regulations and the first amendment. Free speech is a right all citizens have and to specify what should be made and how it should be made naturally goes against that ideal. This leads to very diluted sense of diversity, where a minority owner is considered to be diverse, when in reality that is only minimally diverse. Therefore, what kind of diversity is the industry striving for? And how much diversity is necessary? The FCC and scholars believe there should also be more diversity in the ways viewers receive the media, and this too is vague and hard to measure. Just because more people have more methods of receiving the media, it doesn't necessarily imply diversity. There are just too many types of diversity to try and quantify, and once it has been quantified, what good is it? Every aspect of the industry could be striving toward diversity, but each one could have a completely different definition of diversity and thus a different goal. These problems keep the possibility of regulation out of the question.

One example Einstein uses is the radio spectrum and attempts to regulate it back in 1912. The airwaves were becoming overcrowded without regulation so the Radio Act of 1912 did three things: established the governments control over the airwaves, the government allocated the spectrum based on priorities, and lastly distress calls and individual communications were given priority over amateur communications. This attempt at regulating the spectrum didn't take into account how quickly technologies would progress, with this progress the basis of the spectrum began to flounder and other radio acts ensued. The 1927 act declared the airways public and the 1934 Act created the FCC. Defining the FCC's role was quite structured and limited diversity - only a handful of voices were allowed on the air. Due to its reliance on advertising, the programming on the air was also less diverse. The programs had to appeal to the advertisers and that dictated the content.

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