Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Structural Diversity Leads to Content Diversity?

The problem with diversity is that it has never been defined clearly and explicitly. People in the industry or policymakers cannot come in a consensus over what determines diversity and how many “different” programs is required for the industry to be “diverse.” Einstein outlines three kinds of diversity: Source diversity, Outlet Diversity and content diversity. In my opinion, content diversity would serve in creating the diversity that could serve in the public interest. However, since it consists of variety of programming and point of views , regulating this conflicts with first amendment issues. Hence, policymakers have to rely on structural diversity regulations to serve their goal.

Structural diversity (source and outlet diversity) consists of diversity of media ownership and producers. Einstein argues that regulating structure is an ineffective way to increase diversity because structural diversity does not necessarily cause content diversity. She questions this causality and underlying assumption that structural diversity will lead to a variety of programming. Furthermore, the nature of the industry is such that everyone is competing for this large block of audience (to attract advertisement revenues), and due to this, programs that attract the largest audience tend to be dominant. Minority and educational/informational programs, therefore, often get driven to the side.

Minority Licensing Policies is one of the various attempts made by the policy makers to enhance diversity in this industry. This policy gave minorities a comparative advantage in the media industry, as it was believed that minority ownership would increase diversity of content, and this would serve in the public interest. The FCC believed that minority views were often driven to the side by mainstream media, having this structural diversity would not only cater to the needs and interests of the minority community, but would also serve in the public interest as it would educate and inform the non-minority audience. The FCC therefore started to consider minority status in license application processes and created a “distress sale” program where people whose licenses were getting revoked were allowed to transfer their license to a minority. As a result of these policies, questions regarding gender. Class, and ethnicity discrimination started to arise, but still the Congress and the Supreme Court decisions favored these policies since they did really believe that there was a correlation between minority owners and minority programming. Despite these beliefs there is little or no empirical evidence that supports the arguments of the Supreme Court and the Congress.

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