Media Concentration: Still Relevant 10 Years Later

Information Access, Intellectual Freedom Committee

By: Jamie LaRue

Ten years ago, in June 2007, “Fostering Media Diversity in Libraries: Strategies and Actions” was prepared by the now-dissolved American Library Association, Intellectual Freedom Committee Subcommittee on the Impact of Media Concentration on Libraries.

How it all started

Federal Communications Commission FCCIn June of 2003, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to relax a variety of media ownership regulations, many concerns were raised about media concentration, especially in those wanting to uphold the principles of diversity and localism.

At the 2003 Annual Conference, ALA Council adopted “New FCC Rules and Media Concentration,” opposing rules changes related to media ownership caps and cross-ownership rules that would encourage further media concentration.

Following that Annual Conference, the IFC established the FCC Rules and Media Ownership Subcommittee. Subsequently, its name was changed to Impact of Media Concentration on Libraries. It was charged to examine the impact of these mergers on intellectual freedom, access to information, and diversity of opinion in local communities, and to review how libraries could counter the effects of media consolidation by identifying innovative ways that libraries provide materials and information presenting all points of view. In January 2004, chair of the subcommittee, Nancy Kranich prepared a document titled, “Libraries and FCC Rules Related to Media Concentration and Localism.

To fulfill its charge, the subcommittee spent the next years developing “Fostering Media Diversity in Libraries: Strategies and Actions.” This guideline is designed to provide libraries, library consortia, and library networks with a centralized list of strategies and actions to help them fulfill one of their key responsibilities: to provide access to a diverse collection of resources and services. Special attention has been given to the acquisition of and access to small, independent, and alternative sources — including locally produced ones — in all formats: print, AV media, and electronic.

Having completed its charge, the Impact of Media Concentration on Libraries Subcommittee was dissolved at the 2007 ALA Annual Conference.

And Now?

Altoona Public Library Magazines and Newspapers

Much of the language of the previous resolutions rings true today. Freedom of expression and diversity of opinion are still essential to democracy. Intellectual freedom principles are still the bedrock of American librarianship.

The issues remain, too. In 2003 there were six big publishing houses. Now there are five. Internet traffic — aside from the concerns expressed by the fight over net neutrality — is also heavily concentrated. There are five top Most Valuable Global brands: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.

The Strategies and Action document highlights the importance of librarian values (IF, equity of access, diversity, literacy) which “do not fit traditional marketplace models. Instead, these democratic values privilege citizens over consumers….” This phrase is incisive. At some point, perhaps after 9/11, we stopped being citizens, with rights and responsibilities. We became, instead, shoppers, measured only by our economic activity. This is lost ground we must reclaim.

Further the document predicted, “If the mainstream media ignores, under covers, or diminishes essential stories, libraries are unlikely to acquire them.” This is even more pointed today, when the bulk of new content produced by small, independent and self-publishers doesn’t get reviewed, so tends not to show up in our collections at all. (This is one of the problems the OurVoices initiative seeks to address.)

The work of this early subcommittee was prescient, and worthy of preservation.

Resources

Media Literacy @ Your LibraryMedia Literacy at your library – Public libraries are invited to apply to be part of Media Literacy @ Your Library. Apply by September 11, 2017. Media Literacy @ Your Library is a learning and prototyping project. The goal of this project is to train library workers to better equip the public to be discerning news consumers. ALA and the Center for News Literacy (CNL) will work with teams from five libraries to adapt existing media literacy training to serve the needs of public librarians and the communities they serve.

Center for News Literacy – The Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University is committed to teaching students how to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports and news sources. It is the only center of its kind in the United States. Funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the center has taught News Literacy to more than 10,000 undergraduates — from all academic disciplines.

Fighting Fake News: How libraries can lead the way on media literacy

Becoming a Media MentorBecoming a Media Mentor : A Guide for Working with Children and Families – Media mentors guide children and their families in choosing and using the technology and digital media in their lives. Haines and Campbell describe what it means to be a digital-age librarian working with literacy development and children’s media. Along the way they introduce you to some of the media mentors who have grounded their use of digital media with relationships that encourage joint engagement and enhanced learning.

Did Media Literacy Backfire? – In “Did Media Literacy Backfire?” Data and Society founder danah boyd argues that the thorny problems of fake news and the spread of conspiracy theories have, in part, origins in efforts to educate people against misinformation. At the heart of the problem are deeper cultural divides that we must learn how to confront.

Project Censored – Project Censored educates students and the public about the importance of a truly free press for democratic self-government.  They expose and oppose news censorship and promote independent investigative journalism, media literacy, and critical thinking.

Fair – FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. They work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

Pew Research Center; Journalism and Media – Since 2004, Pew Research Center has issued an annual report on key audience and economic indicators for a variety of sectors within the U.S. news media industry. These data speak to the shifting ways in which Americans seek out news and information, how news organizations get their revenue, and the resources available to American journalists as they seek to inform the public about important events of the day.

News Know-how: How Libraries and News Literacy Promote Public Discourse and Intellectual Freedom

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