Consumer groups and the United States Senate is up in arms
over the FCC’s recent vote to relax its rules on media ownership, which
currently prohibit ownership of both print and broadcast news sources in the
The vote occurred on Tuesday of last week, with a 3-2 split reportedly
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said the vote represented a “relatively
minimal loosening of the band” that he thinks will “help forestall the erosion
in local news coverage.” The new rules would allow simultaneous ownership of
print and broadcast news outlets in the same top 20 market, which critics fear could
spark a wave of media mergers that would leave fewer choices for consumers.
“The public has repeatedly told us they are not interested
in further media consolidation,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan
Adelstein. “The law does not say we are to serve those who seek to profit by
using the public airwaves … the law says we are to serve the public interest.”
In an interview
earlier this week with the Associated
Press, Martin told reporters that “this was actually a very moderate
attempt to adjust our rules to reflect some of the changes that are occurring
in the marketplace.”
The FCC initially voted on loosening the rules on media
ownership in 2003, with the vote succeeding only to be later nullified by a
federal appeals court in 2004. Like last week’s decision, the 2003 vote sparked
a fierce bipartisan backlash that was fought vigorously by congress and
consumer rights groups.
Of particular concern is a series of loopholes that would
grant similar privileges to markets outside the “top 20 markets” list, if media
consolidation created additional local news sources or it bails out a news
source experiencing financial distress, among other exemptions.
The day before the vote, Martin received a letter from a
group of 25 senators warning him that they would “move legislation to revote
the rule and nullify the vote” if the FCC elected to go ahead with the ownership
rule changes, which have been brewing in various forms for several years.
According to the group, which includes Democratic Senate
Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, and Republican Ted “Series of Tubes” Stevens
of Alaska, the FCC had not spent enough time seeking public input and examining
quote: It works both ways, ya know?
quote: What! Are you kidding? ALL of the large media companies are right-wing. Name me a major mainstream media company which is blatantly left-wing?
quote: Like say, for example, Reagan's support of the Contra death squads (terrorists!) in Nicaragua. Gary Webb ring a bell?
quote: Do you think Fox News will do any investigative reporting on that topic? Not while there's a missing blonde in Aruba!
quote: You might think that's a good thing. I don't. I think it is a cancer that could ultimately destroy America.