The FCC’s Covert Mission to ‘Balance’ Broadcast Media Ownership
By Chuck Rogér
Should Americans be concerned about a Federal Communications Commission official having once suggested that if government doesn’t help minorities reduce white ownership of broadcast media, then only violence would assure the protection of minorities’ civil rights ? In the little-noticed 2007 publication “The Erosion of Civil Rights,” Mark Lloyd attempted to make a case for Washington controlling media ownership. At the time, Lloyd — now FCC Chief Diversity Officer — was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Lloyd’s contribution, “Civil Rights and Communications Policy-2006,” is saturated with straw man arguments.
Ideologues use two predominant straw man templates. Type I declares the existence of nonexistent problems in order to draw implications that bolster ideological talking points. Type II offers imagined evidence against imagined problems to strengthen talking points.
Mark Lloyd depended on Type I straw men in “Civil Rights and Communications Policy-2006.” He wrote, “Communications policy determines who gets to speak to whom, how soon and at what cost.” Bad policy “enhances one group’s ability to communicate and limits another group,” violates the limited group’s civil rights, and “perpetuates the stereotypes one group holds about the other.” There is no proof of a “communications policy” that either benefits or hurts certain “groups,” and yet Lloyd stated the contention as fact. Indeed, there’s no proof that Americans communicate according to any “policy” at all. The very idea of government-controlled communications violates the First Amendment. Lloyd’s follow-on points depend on the reader not noticing the hocus-pocus.
But all the magic in the world cannot assign value to specifics based on worthless generalities. Lloyd offered three gems.
If a white teacher believes it will be difficult to teach a brown child, her expectations for that child will be limited. If a white police officer believes black men to be threatening, he will tend to shoot first. If a white citizen believes women of color are lazy, he will be less inclined to support laws that aid the poor.
Essentially admitting the flimsiness of the claims, Lloyd then fell back on an old, reliable “The evidence to support these assertions is compelling.” But no relevant evidence was revealed. Instead, revealed was an obsession with white-bashing. Lloyd’s racial divisiveness presaged the dramatic rise in liberals’ use of the practice since Barack Obama became president.
Insistent on viewing the world through a divisive lens, Lloyd complained that because of an “important and unique role in community discourse,” broadcasters must “act as a public trustee, providing free over the air service for the public good of all segments of their community of license.” Operative phrase: “all segments.” Never has American government forced an industry to donate a product “for the public good.” Yet Lloyd wants to force broadcasters to forgo profits in order to serve the needs of racially and ethnically segregated markets.
Lloyd pushed the same kind of anti-free market, First Amendment-ignoring heavy-handedness in a more well-known 2007 Center for American Progress report, “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio.” In the report, Lloyd called for legalizing racial discrimination by placing “caps” on white ownership of radio stations.
But in Lloyd’s mind, serving segregated markets is only half the battle. To make life truly fair, government must force affirmative action in broadcast industry employment and ownership. Returning to Lloyd’s “Civil Rights and Communications Policy-2006,” we find the czar-to-be using yet another straw man to demand the reenergizing of a 1970s “battle for rules to promote minority ownership.” The justification is that white ownership hurts minorities. Lack of proof for the claim exposes Lloyd’s prescription as ideologically motivated hysterics.
Hysterics inspire various degrees of action. In the case of the communications industry, Lloyd wanted the FCC to investigate using “race-based measures to advance equal employment opportunity regulations and efforts to increase minority ownership[.]” Lloyd now works for a government agency that could force a fix for the “diversity problem.”
To be sure, the FCC is in the process of acting on Mark Lloyd’s recommendations from both 2007 Center for American Progress documents discussed here. A new FCC program will “assess whether all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information[.]” Look for “diverse sources” to translate into “diverse” industry ownership.
Obama’s FCC, intent on diversifying talk radio, could be aiming to marginalize administration opponents. For camouflage, the FCC bent the truth in a reply to a CNS News FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for records of communications “to and from” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that contained references to conservative media personalities. The FCC denied the existence of communications fitting the specified parameters, but CNSNews.com reports that in the fall of 2009, the left-wing So We Might See Coalition sent a letter to FCC Chairman Genachowski concerning “hate speech in the media” by personalities like Rush Limbaugh. And the withholding of evidence of media tampering doesn’t end with the CNS episode.
FCC Administrative Law Chief Joel Kaufman, the official whose letter didn’t report the existence of the CNS-requested document, also responded to a Judicial Watch FOIA request for information on Lloyd’s staffing and budget. Kaufman claimed that the FCC “could locate no records” showing anyone hired “specifically to support [Lloyd] in his work” and that Lloyd “has no separate budget for operation and administration.”
The mushiness surrounding Lloyd’s mission makes another portion of the FCC response to the Judicial Watch FOIA request more curious still. Kaufman’s letter containing the “no records” claim states that the FCC
… did locate internal briefing materials for the Chairman concerning “media ownership” that we are withholding in their entirety pursuant to FOIA Exemption 5,5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5). FOIA Exemption 5 permits the withholding of materials in order to encourage open, frank discussions on matters of policy between subordinates and superiors.
The FCC has basically admitted to a plan to conceal from Americans the content of “media ownership” discussions that are occurring. Mark Lloyd may fulfill a dream expressed in 2007. The Diversity Czar can now work to correct “the structural imbalance of political talk radio” without worrying about bothersome interference from the American people.
A writer, physicist, and former high tech executive, Chuck Rogér invites you to visit his website, chuckroger.com. E-mail Chuck at email@example.com.
 Mark Lloyd’s exact words: “Absent a repeat of the dramatic injustices that reached Americans on their television screens in the 60s it will be difficult, if not impossible, to advance a civil rights agenda on any front in the current communications environment.” From chapter titled, “Civil Rights and Communications Policy-2006” in “The Erosion of Civil Rights,” Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights and Center for American Progress, 2007, p.87.