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Progressives Push New Media Diversity Index

Progressive think tank The Center for American Progress has devised its own method for measuring media consolidation to make sure there is a diversity of independent voices.

The proposed index would give added weight to minority and female news people, and take into account the Internet as well as print, broadcast, and cable, but "only those sources contributing locally produced news and public affairs."

The FCC is rethinking its yardstick, including commissioning 10 studies of its own, after a federal court took issue with the media diversity index it used to justify its proposed 2003 deregulatory ownership changes.

The commission is under orders from a federal appeals court to revamp its media ownership rules and from congress to go over all of its rules per a quadrennial review.

The center says it believes that the FCC will "likely try to rework its Diversity Index in a way that will allow greater media concentration but will withstand judicial scrutiny."

The center, in a study released Tuesday, proposes that the FCC adopt a metric that, in addition to counting the above sources, 1) "captures the diversity of sources available to both the general public and significant distinct ethnic audiences; 2) measures potential audience, and 3) measures the number of news employees, with extra points for women and minorities.

The group argues the FCC should then tie those to measurement of civic engagement and knowledge, say, voting levels or civic group participation, to try to gauge the impact of diversity on civic participation.

The study was scheduled to unveiled at a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday.