Concentrated media ownership would have no room for Fred Rogers With Fred Rogers' passing, America lost one of the few icons of decency on television. "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" was marketed to children, but the man himself offered a message for all of television.

Writing in The New York Times last Thursday, Daniel Lewis reported that "When (Rogers) was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999, he began his formal acceptance speech by saying, 'Fame is a four-letter word.' And now that he had gotten the attention of a house full of the industry's most powerful and glamorous names, he asked them to think about their responsibilities as people 'chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen, day and night.' He instructed them to be silent for 10 seconds and think about someone who had had a good influence on them."

Very few television executives think about that responsibility. Thanks to loosened Federal Communications Commission regulations, broadcasters are free to make a fat profit with no consideration for their product's impact on people.

The FCC is in the midst of reconsidering its policy on broadcast ownership. By May, the commission will decide whether to lift all remaining restrictions on media ownership.

In an attempt to sample public opinion on whether concentrations of media ownership have dulled the quality and variety of the broadcast spectrum, the FCC ventured to Richmond, Va., to hold its only public hearing on the matter. It is laughable that the FCC thought that by venturing some 200 miles away from the nation's capital, it would tap public sentiment. As The Washington Post reported, 119 of the 195 in the commission's Richmond audience "were white men in suits." Of the 22 people scheduled to address the commission, "13 of them had traveled here from the District of Columbia."

Television has become much more a wasteland than it was in the 1960s when FCC Chairman Newton Minow dubbed television "a vast wasteland." The free market advocate Brent Bozell III told the FCC in Richmond that, "Americans 'are disgusted, revolted, fed up, horrified - I don't know how else to underscore this - by the raw sewage, the ultraviolence, the graphic sex, the raunchy language that is flooding into their living rooms day and night.'"

Amen.

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