Consolidation issue should not be seen as partisan

by Ryan Blethen, Daily Democracy/Seattle Times

Daily Democracy has received some comments about partisanship and the Federal Communications Commission. The writers claim that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is pushing to change media ownership laws because he is a Republican. Take for example what Leon Schmidt wrote:

I object to the short notification period given for the Public Hearing in Media Ownership rules to be held in Seattle Washington scheduled for Nov. 9th 2007. This meeting schedule does not even give even the faintest appearance of soliciting comment from a concerned public and only appears to cater to companies and organizations that stand to benefit from expanded relaxed media ownership rules. FCC Chairman Martin is a guardian of our airwaves and it is a shame that a big business agenda tries to govern fair use of the public spectrum and the public's ability to weigh in on these issues.

Simply stated, I do not believe that expanded relaxed media ownership rules are in the best interest of this country. Partisan manipulation of the public input comment periods ought to be enough proof of the dangers of giving too few control of Radio/TV air content.

This note has the feel of turf, but raises some good points, except for the claim that Martin is engaging in partisan manipulation.

Then there was this from Elliott Swenson:

There was a full half hour dedicated to this very topic last night on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal. FCC Chairman Martin may try to sneak this Seattle hearing in at the last minute, but it doesn't take long for people who have been waiting for a chance to confront this goof. More stations and newspapers owned by huge corporations? What are you a Republican? Oh right, Martin is!

This reads as if I am saying that consolidation is good. Yikes! Elliot is correct about Martin, though. He is a Republican, but that does not mean that Republicans are the bad guys on this issue. I believe this is more of a Bush administration problem, which by extension makes it a Republican problem.

Some of the leaders against media consolidation are Republicans. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both from Maine, are big on this issue. Snowe has joined up with Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., pushing for a net neutrality law. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., has also teamed up with Dorgan on media ownership.

Traditional Republican reflexes are for less government, and a distrust of big business. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, then William Howard Taft were the original trust busters.

We should not forget that the latest wave of consolidation happened with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 during the presidency of Bill Clinton. There was a Republican majority that overwhelmingly voted for the legislation, but so did nearly all the Democrats in the House.

Media consolidation is too important to be reduced to partisan bickering. An independent press is at the core American democracy. That should be enough to unite and defeat what really is a threat from the Bush administration.

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