Saturday, June 11, 2005

Big Media a Trojan Horse for Racism?

UCLA law professor Jerry Kang draws an interesting links between media consolidation and racial biases. In his fascinating recent report, Trojan Horses of Race, he focuses on the "if it bleeds, it leads" nature of local news.

He states that the FCC's public interest obligations need to be infused with more meaningful qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) standards for local reporting. As the obligations stand, they provide no clarity, leaving broadcasters free to meet FCC regs by filling their news hole with local crime stories often featuring minority suspects. This tendency feeds common misconceptions about race.

Kang's research might prove useful in efforts to organize new communities around the pending ownership fight. Check out the interview in which he states:
Crime stories have always been popular with local news and average approximately 25 percent of the minutes broadcast. More local news means more crime stories shown. This emphasis on local programming [as the FCC's measure of fulfilling the public-interest obligations of a broadcaster] also creates incentives to produce more local news with an eye toward subsequent waves of deregulation . . .

On the basis of this evidence, I believe that being inundated with crime stories, disproportionately featuring racial minorities, is likely to increase implicit bias. That is a hidden downside to local news, a sort of Trojan Horse virus that infects our brains
Kang critiques FCC's public interest obligations for calling for a quantity of local news without defining qualitative standards. The end product is commercial broadcasters' obsession with the cheap-to-produce police blotter stories that typically lead newscasts in every market.

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