From the New York Times:
“The head of the Federal Communications Commission has circulated an ambitious plan to relax the decades-old media ownership rules, including repealing a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.”
“Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, wants to repeal the rule in the next two months – a plan that, if successful, would be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates.”
The New York Times, a big media conglomerate, is severely understating the impact of these proposed rules. By relaxing ownership caps, the FCC will be exacerbating a problem that is already destroying free and diverse media in this country. In the past 25 years, the number of companies that controlled the majority of media output plunged from 50 to 5. The FCC thinks that that is a positive trend and is doing its best to sustain and advance it.
This is not the first time the FCC has taken such steps. The previous chairman, Michael Powell, tried to ram through similar rules but was beat back by the public and reversed by the courts. Martin is pretending to rectify Powell’s errors by staging events ostensibly to collect public opinion. However, he is now brazenly ignoring that opinion.
A year ago the FCC held hearings in Los Angeles that demonstrated a passionate opposition to further consolidation. The audience was probably 90+ percent opposed to relaxing ownership caps. That story was repeated in seven more cities where the FCC brought its show. Now Martin is justifying his proposed new rules by claiming that they were drafted with input from the public. The only problem is that nowhere in his proposal are the public’s views represented. It’s as if they never existed.
The FCC’s genuflection to Big Media was blocked last time because Americans in unprecedented numbers demanded fairness and independence. We must do so again. Sen. Byron L. Dorgan has long been a leader in this fight. Let him know that you appreciate his courage in taking on the media, an institution that could do him much harm. Also, visit FreePress and its affiliate Stop Big Media. Their site is stocked with information and tools to help you be an effective advocate for media reform.
This is a serious matter and demands a commitment to fight. Chairman Martin is determined to reward his Big Media patrons. No matter what other issue you are involved with, it is this issue that shapes the outcome. You cannot end the war in Iraq, or pass universal health care, or advance environmental protections, or [fill in the blank] without access to media that is responsible and accountable to citizens. It’s time to get to work…again.