Corporate Power/Consolidation

The sneaky handling of rules that will dilute media diversity

Philadelphia Inquirer editorial, Sat, Dec. 13, 2003

Over the summer, Senate and House members plunked down on the couch with the American public and took a look at the Federal Communications Commission's plan for more mega-media mergers.

Before long, they were all tossing nachos at the television

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RTM Analysis of King County's Comcast Franchise Renewal Plan


Michael J. Weisman, JD
Reclaim the Media

This is a point-by-point analysis of King County proposed ordinance 2002-0556

I. Revised Staff Report dated December 15, 2003

Revenue Options to the County

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An Open Letter to the King County Council

[Jan Strout urges Councilmembers to slow down their fast-track attempt to extend Comcast's cable franchise, at the expense of the public's best interests. The Council plans to take this issue up again on Monday Dec. 15--there's still time to submit your own comments!]


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Media Politics: Press Freedom Survives Govt. Attack in BC

On Oct. 9, newspaper headlines across Canada solemnly announced the death of Izzy Asper, the country's biggest media mogul. Most of those headlines appeared in papers owned by Asper's megalithic CanWest Global, which owns something like 60% of all English-language dailies in the country, plus one of the largest TV networks and other holdings. Under Asper's watch, the company's newspaper operation had become a poster child for the ways consolidated ownership can harm journalistic values and editorial independence. Editors and columnists who resisted upper management directives, or disagreed with the "national editorials"imperiously dispatched from headquarters, were shown the door.

Read more. Jonathan Lawson (Jonathan Lawson/)

Court rules in Favor of Two-Newspaper Seattle


Dashing the hopes of the Seattle Times Company, a King County Superior Court judge ruled that the Times could not break its Joint Operating Agreement with the Hearst-owned Post-Intelligencer. Judge Canova ruled that the year 2000, marred by a Newspaper Guild strike against the Times, could not count as a regular year of losses for the paper (three years' consecutive losses by one paper are required to consider ending the JOA, by the terms of the agreement).
The decision is being hailed as a victory by the Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town, a citizens' group which had successfully intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the newspapers? readers.

Perhaps ironically, Times owner Frank Blethen became prominent in recent months as an outspoken proponent of media diversity - opposing the FCC's recent moves to deregulate media ownership rules, which could threaten locally-owned newspapers like the Seattle Times. The Hearst Corporation favored the rule changes, and the Post-Intelligencer editorialized in favor of deregulation.

[ Labor resolution favoring local newspaper diversity ]
[ Seattle Weekly coverage ]

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Powell Decision Slapped Again and Again


A surprise Sept. 3 judicial victory temporarily suspended the FCC?s new media ownership rules set to go into effect Sept. 4, giving federal lawmakers more time to cancel the wildly unpopular rules before they ever become law. In a lawsuit brought against the rules by the Prometheus Radio Project and argued by the Media Access Project's Andy Schwartzman, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals decided to suspend the rules pending the case?s outcome.

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Canadian Government Study Blasts Cross-Ownership


A Canadian parliamentary committee has concluded, after two and a half years? study, that rampant media consolidation and newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership require drastic corrective measures. The committee's report, Our Cultural Sovereignty, recommends both an immediate freeze on Canadian media concentration and remedial regulation possibly including the breakup of existing cross-media networks such as CanWest Global. According to the report, new federal legislation is needed to "protect the integrity of editorial independence and journalistic freedom."

In the US Congress, attempts to roll back parts of the FCC's June 2 decision have primarily focused on the national TV ownership cap. Attempts to restore the (arguably more important) cross-ownership ban have failed as amendments. The Canadian study, however, may have the potential to reignite this regulatory issue in the US as well, as it presents a vision of the future for the path Michael Powell's FCC has laid out for the American media landscape.

[ Canadian Deregulation Provides Insight Into FCC Proposal ]

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Study Reveals NAB and NPR Lied to Congress

The five-year policy battle over low-power community radio (LPFM) took an interesting turn this week, with the long-delayed release of a Congressionally-mandated study on LPFM interference. The study, ordered as part of the industry-supported Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000, is a powerful refutation of claims by the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio, who had argued that low-power FM signals would interfere with higher-power comercial signals on adjacent frequencies. The study, completed months ago, was released this week only after a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent complaints from LPFM advocates.

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Citizens Group Fights to Keep Seattle a Two-Newspaper Town


The newly-formed Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town, has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit between the owners of Seattle's two daily newspapers. The group, a coalition of community, political and labor leaders and activists, hopes to protect the Joint Operating Agreement which has kept both papers in print for the past twenty years.

In April, the Hearst Corporation (owners of the Post-Intelligencer) filed suit to prevent the Times from dissolving the JOA and shuttering the P-I. The Times countered April 29 by saying it had lost money for three years and needed to close the P-I to return to profitability. The new Committee's intervention takes aim at a provision of the JOA that would pay Hearst 32 percent of the Times' profits for 80 years if it closes the P-I. The group contends that this provision may be an illegal restraint of trade. The group also argues that the Times has breached the JOA contract by asserting it has had three years' worth of losses. Finally, by intervening in the suit, the Committee guarantees itself a seat at the table for any discussions of a settlement between Hearst and the Times.

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Community Media and Social Change: Media Activism at the ACM


On July 9-12, the Alliance for Community Media will hold its annual conference in Tacoma. It's a great opportunity for Northwest community video producers to meet colleagues from across the country, and to attend seminars and workshops on production techniques, media literacy, funding challenges and public policy related to community media.

This year's conference features a special Community Media and Social Change track, in which grassroots producers, media activists and educators can consider their role in the media democracy movement and other social justice struggles. Topics include youth media production, media ownership reform and cable franchise negotiation challenges. Presenters represent a broad range of media and activist groups: Colors Northwest, Hate Free Zone, the Independent Media Center, KBCS, Media Tank, Reclaim the Media and Third World Majority, among others.

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