Tell FCC- No More Media Consolidation
At a meeting this month (June, 2006) in Washington, the FCC issued a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the first step in any new media ownership regulations. But FCC Chairman Kevin Martin did not outline exact rules the FCC could implement by the end of the year.
“This innocuous-looking document initiates the single most important public policy debate that the FCC will tackle this year,” said Commissioner Michael Copps. “Don’t let its slimness fool you. It means that this Commission has begun to decide on behalf of the American people the future of our media. It means deciding whether or not to accelerate media concentration, step up the loss of local news and change forever the critical role independent newspapers perform for our country.”
The commissioners voted to launch the new process with partial dissents from Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Copps.
“The manner in which the Commission is launching this critical proceeding is totally inadequate,” Adelstein said. “It is like submitting a high-school term paper for a Ph.D. thesis. The large media companies wanted, and today they get, a blank check to permit further media consolidation.”
The new rulemaking allows 120 days for public comment, and Chairman Martin pledged to hold “half a dozen” public hearings and conduct independent studies. Numerous members of the StopBigMedia.com Coalition responded:
“For far too long, media policy in this country has been made behind closed doors in the public’s name but without our informed consent,” said Robert W. McChesney, president of Free Press. “Despite overwhelming public opposition to greater media consolidation from across the entire political spectrum, the FCC and industry lobbyists are trying to sneak through the same misguided rules rejected in 2003. Chairman Kevin Martin appears to have learned little from the last ownership rules debacle. But the public’s views are clear: Big Media is already big enough.”
Communities across the United States should take note of what the FCC is doing and speak out before the federal agency allows the conglomerates to “gobble up” more local media, writes Ryan Blethen of the Seattle Times.
In a Times editorial Friday, June 23, Blethen calls on Americans of every persuasion to demand that the FCC hears their concerns about big media control of local news and information:
“Write your congressmen. Write your senators. Go to the public meetings the FCC plans to hold around the country. Tell the FCC to ensure that your press stays independent. If your newspaper or TV station is not covering this issue, ask the editor or producer why not.
“It is time to panic. Our democracy will only suffer if the bland, monolithic media machine is allowed to suck up more press outlets.”
Earlier in the week, a Seattle Times editorial called upon the FCC to have hearings across the country. “Let them come here, and this community will give them an earful,” the paper wrote.
In fact, a public hearing starring at least two FCC commissioners is set for June 28 in Asheville, North Carolina. The event – the first of its kind since the FCC announced its plans to rewrite ownership rules on Wednesday – is being facilitated by StopBigMedia.com coordinator Free Press, in partnership with local activists and media reform groups. (For more about the Asheville hearing visit www.freepress.net/future/=asheville) .
“We’re going to do more studies and more hearings than have been done before,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told reporters on Wednesday. “We’re going to have a longer comment period, so we’re going to try to seek greater public input.”
We need to watch Martin closely and hold him to this commitment. It’s clear who he’s been listening to in the debate over concentration. He has supported eliminating the three-decade-old flat ban on television-newspaper cross-ownership and in April called on newspaper publishers to join him to help justify the repeal.
When in 2003, Martin’s predecessor Michael Powell faced broad public opposition to further media consolidation, his response was to attend no further public hearings. This time around Martin can’t pull a “Powell” and close his office to the concerns of the people he really represents.
What can you do? Go to the website: stopbigmedia.com, and sign the petition to the FCC telling them to keep the current rules. And contact Levin, Stabenow, and Camp to let them know they need to pay attention to what Martin (and the Bush Adminstration) is trying to do: shut down a free and diverse press.
From JT: If you’re not sure about this, or don’t think this petition is important, go to the FCC website: www.fcc.gov, and read the Commissioner Copp and Commissioner Adelstein‘s statements. If they don’t raise your hackles, you’re not paying attention!