Why Media Ownership Matters to Kids

Natasha Kirtchuk, 11
January 27, 2003


The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing a number of long-standing regulations governing ownership of newspapers, radio and televisions stations. Among them is the rule barring a single company from owning several types of media outlets—a TV station and a newspaper, for example—in a single market.

The commissioners have said they will decide on any rule changes by spring 2003. The issue is whether the rules are still appropriate in a market altered by the growth of the internet, cable and satellite television. Media companies say the regulations are outdated and make it hard for them to compete. Critics are worried that looser rules could result in a few huge companies controlling the vast majority of news, information and entertainment.

Open Letter to the FCC
By Natasha Kirtchuk, 11

Last week at Columbia Law School, the public got a chance to tell several FCC commissioners what they thought about who should own the media.

They said I was too young to speak at the hearing. On behalf of kids in this country, this is what I would have said:

If only a few companies own the local TV and radio stations and newspapers in each city, kids won't be exposed to the diversity of ideas that we need to grow into good citizens.

It's important for kids to have different ways to look at a situation. When someone tells us what they think, we won't know enough to form our own opinions. How are we going to know that speaking out is okay?

Interesting TV and radio gives kids something to chew on. Adults want to limit the amount of violence on TV because it may give kids the wrong idea. Fine. But also understand that we get good ideas from things we like and if what we hear or see in the media doesn't challenge us to think outside of the box—we are not going get those good ideas.

FCC Comissioner Michael Copps tells CPL reporter Natasha Kirtchuk, 11, that he agrees with testimony from CPL director Katina Paron that additional research on children and deregulation is FCC Comissioner Michael Copps tells CPL reporter Natasha Kirtchuk, 11, that he agrees with testimony from CPL director Katina Paron that additional research on children and deregulation is "hugely important."

Everyone thinks that kids just watch and watch and watch TV. Well, maybe we do talk about it a lot but it's something we all do. In the media, we can see different ways that kids can be—and adults can be—and it helps us learn.

Kids like seeing kids on TV because on TV they have a special place in society. We see the kids on TV and they are accessible to us. We can see kids being important and, for once, we see people actually listening to them. They make being a kid important because that's their job. In real life, we don't have jobs or a place in society. It's because we can't vote but that's another topic...

I'm lucky; I live in New York City where there is a lot of diversity. But for kids who live in places where everybody looks like them, the only way they get access to different types of people and different viewpoints is on TV.

As a young journalist, I can say that kids won't be interested in becoming media makers if they feel that they don't have a chance to get their work aired.

We will lose faith in the news if what we read in the newspaper and see on TV all sounds the same. If we can't trust the news, we'll ignore it. And you wonder why young adults don't vote!

According to a study by Children Now, kids make up 26 percent of the country. But only 10 percent of news stories talk about kids—and when they do we are either criminals or victims. What are the chances deregulating will make these numbers better?

It's hard enough getting the mainstream press to run stories about kids—like the young Africans who spoke out to their leaders at the United Nations Special Session on Children. Or why children oppose a war in Iraq. Or the challenges of being young and dealing with mental illness.

As it is, children don't have a voice in the mainstream media. How can the commissioners with kids—all former kids—not consider our voices when making this decision?

Companies get airways for free as long as they do something good for the public, right? If they are not giving us balanced information or entertainment from a bunch of media makers, then they shouldn't get to keep the airways.

Deregulating the media without seriously considering how it will affect kids is saying that the government doesn't care about us. The FCC is controlling our future and limiting our right to ideas.

I'm saying all this because I think you can make the right decision. We are 26 percent of this country and we are more than just the future. We are the present.


Talk Back

If you've got comments or questions about this story, we'd like to hear them. Send your response to Susan Phillips.


Ashley Akins, 17, helped prepare this story. Akins and Kirtchuk work with Children's Pressline, and this statement appeared earlier in The Amsterdam News.