FCC's Wheeler: Diversity Fight Has 'Leapt to Net'

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler signaled in a speech Tuesday (Oct. 7) that while the FCC will continue to push for diverse voices in TV and radio station ownership, the new front in that fight is online.

According to prepared remarks for the annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications lecture in Washington, Wheeler said that "facilities ownership is less critical to diverse voices than ever before." Instead, he said, "the fight for the diversity of viewpoints and the protection of fundamental democratic values has leapt to the Internet."

He said that while it used to require a broadcast license, or a barrel of ink, to insure free flow of information, "[t]oday you just need an Internet connection. That connection must be able to lead you and your opinions to the world, as well as bring the thoughts and ideas of the world to you – both without interference."

He said that is why the new network neutrality rules are so important. He said he was treating the rules as the most important decision he will make during his tenure.

"The opportunity the Internet offers for making everyone a publisher with their own outlet to the world – literally the world – is the greatest advance in democratic values in history," he said. "But it only works if the Internet remains open."

"[F]ree expression is a value that stands at the center of our work to promote an open Internet," he said. "As if the revolutionary expansion of free speech represented by the Internet isn’t enough, the Net is also an unprecedented expansion of economic opportunity. Networks have always been the backbone of economic expansion, but what is new this time is that an open Internet allows innovative economic activity to reach scope and scale at an unprecedented rate."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.