The Telecommunications Act of 1996 did more than homogenize the music on commercial radio. Another unforeseen effect was that it limited the news and information you receive.
The act eased the cap on how many radio stations a company could own. The resulting consolidation meant that a handful of companies own almost all radio stations and thus control the news on those stations. Corporate owners cut jobs and reduced local news coverage. Two of those big companies that dominate the radio market, Viacom and Disney, also own many TV stations.
The 1996 act eased ownership regulations for TV companies as well. Companies can own TV stations that serve as much as 35 percent of the U.S. population. Broadcasters are allowed to own cable TV systems. Recently, the FCC has eased restrictions on companies owning newspapers and TV stations in the same markets. And many of the giant companies that control TV and radio also publish books and magazines.
The result: A few large corporations control most of the information you get.
Even though there are hundreds of TV channels, Americans get news and information mostly through a few big corporations. That can lead to similarities between news topics and points of view. Public-interest and media groups worry that citizens aren't well-informed and that public debate is being stifled.
Read on for more insights into deregulation.