Representatives should act to ban media cross-ownership

[Seattle Times editorial]

The U.S. House of Representatives needs to take a stand against media consolidation.

The American press and media are being decimated by consolidation. This transformation from many owners into five or six large corporations and the lessening of small outlets for radio, newspapers, magazines and music are chilling a once robust marketplace of ideas. What should Americans do? This series explores the arguments and the backlash.

The U.S. House of Representatives has a chance to do what it would not in 2003: take a stand against media consolidation, which is one of the greatest threats to democracy.

The U.S. Senate worked in the public's interest when it passed a "resolution of disapproval" of media consolidation in May. The House has been content to sit on its companion piece, which would kill a new Federal Communications Commission rule that essentially lifts the media cross-ownership ban.

The resolution was introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, and Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. The resolution currently has 45 sponsors, of which Reichert is the only Republican.

Too bad. This is not a partisan issue. Reichert needs to work on his colleagues, especially the 18 Republicans who voted for similar legislation in 2003.

The new FCC rule essentially lifts the media cross-ownership ban, which barred a company from owning a newspaper, television station and radio station in the same market. The overhauled rule applies to the nation's top 20 media markets, allowing a company to own a newspaper and broadcast outlet.

A close reading of the current rule shows it is filled with loopholes that would allow for consolidation in almost any market — small, medium and large.

The Senate, which passed a similar blocking resolution the last time the FCC tried to scrap the ban, acted quickly and decisively. It is past time the House did the same.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey