A report written in 2004 by researchers at the Federal Communications Commission found that local ownership of broadcasters enhanced coverage of community issues. That conclusion directly contradicts prior arguments made by the Commission that claimed consolidation aided localism. The research analyzed over 4,000 hours of news programming and was conducted by veteran media professionals. Michael Powell, Bush crony and corporate media lackey, was the FCC Chairman, at the time the report was produced.
So what happened to this report? According to an FCC attorney, an order was issued that “every last piece” of the report be destroyed. This document, produced at taxpayer expense, was anathema to an agency that has been mightily striving to accommodate the monopolistic interests of Big Media. It could not be allowed to survive.
However, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) obtained a stray copy of the report and questioned current FCC Chair Kevin Martin about it during committee hearings. He claimed never to have seen the report or to have received the letter Boxer had previously sent inquiring as to its status. Either the Powell administration at the FCC effectively erased any evidence of the report from the agency’s files, or Martin is lying. But the stone-walling by the agency is continuing and it remains to be seen if Martin will eventually provide a satisfactory response. If he does not, Boxer has promised to request an investigation by the FCC Inspector General.
Let’s hope this process can conclude before the FCC succeeds in passing new regulations that will allow the expanded consolidation that this report proves will be harmful to the public’s interest.
Update: Former FCC chief, Michael Powell, emerged to plead ignorance, saying through his assistant that…
“he never saw the report, he never heard of the report until yesterday and he certainly never ordered anything destroyed or stopped.”
Also, Sen. Boxer has fulfilled her promise and formally requested an investigation by the FCC Inspector General.