Seattle to host FCC media ownership hearing on Nov 30

Why Should I Care? Q&A
FCC/Media Ownership fact sheet (pdf)
Communications Rights: putting the issues in context (pdf)
Media Democracy fact sheet
Printable postcards to send comments to the FCC (pdf)

On Nov. 30, a Seattle public hearing on media ownership takes place at the Seattle Public Library, with FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. The hearing will help the FCC gather public comment as it considers revising its media ownership rules, which help protect viewpoint diversity by limiting the number of newspapers, TV and radio stations a single company may own or control. This is Seattle's opportunity to weigh in on an issue which is critical to our culture and our democracy. The public hearing begins at 6pm, Thursday Nov. 30, in the Seattle Public Library's main auditorium (map). Prepare your two-minute comment and arrive early to sign up to testify!

Opening statements from the two FCC Commissioners and from Congressman Jay Inslee will be followed by public testimony. The hearing is cosponsored by Reclaim the Media, The Seattle Times, KBCS 91.3fm Community Radio, the Minority Executive Directors Coalition and the UW Department of Communication.

Media regulation timeline (from Bill Moyers' NOW)
Audio from the March 03 Seattle FCC hearing
RTM response to 2003 deregulation

Background: what's at stake

The FCC's media ownership regulations have been under attack by powerful media corporations and free-market ideologues at least since the Reagan administration, and took a serious hit when the 1996 Telecommunications Act eliminated caps on the number of radio stations a single company could own nationwide. This rule change paved the way for broadcasting empires like Clear Channel, which owns more than 1250 US radio stations, and the concurrent decimation of local ownership and minority ownership.

In the early 2000s, former FCC chairman Michael Powell made no secret of his desire to loosen or even abolish media ownership restrictions. He openly mocked the principles of public interest accountability undergirding the FCC's regulatory mission, and in 2003 led the Commission to a deregulatory decision which completely ignored the input of millions of concerned Americans. In fact, Powell's arrogance was so extreme that it helped to catalyze the expansion of a national movement focused on media democracy issues--a movement which ultimately succeeded in turning back the clock on Powell's scheme through legislative action and, finally, the courts.

Research Shenanigans

Under the Bush administration, the FCC's leadership (first Michael Powell, now Chairman Kevin Martin) has insisted that dispassionate, rational examination of the ownership rules supports deregulation of the rules. However, when the FCC actually commissioned academic studies to investigate the effects of media consolidation, those reports generally fell into two categories. One group of studies, used to justify the FCC's 2003 decision to deregulate media ownership, seemed to support industry claims that such regulation was unnecessary. However, a federal court subsequently rejected that decision on the basis that those studies had been unfairly designed.

Another group of studies produced in 2004 yielded quite different results – showing the harmful effects of consolidation, rather than beating the drums for deregulation. One study concluded that media consolidation harmed local news coverage, and another detailed that local radio ownership plummeted as a result of deregulation. But rather than trumpeting these results and changing course, the FCC leadership decided to bury these studies - only to be revealed years later.

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To find out more--and to submit your comments to the FCC now--visit stopbigmedia.org.

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