Make your voice heard for diverse, local media

by Jonathan S. Adelstein, Seattle Times

Today, Seattle is ground zero in the fight over the future of the American media. A recent survey found that Americans overwhelmingly share a concern about so few media companies owning so many TV and radio stations. This issue is truly a uniter — Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, independents and swing voters, all are equally concerned about media consolidation and its effect on our democracy.

The residents of Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest are the only ones who will have the opportunity to voice those concerns for millions of their fellow citizens. Whether you are concerned about local news, children's and family programming, or local music, we want to hear you.

The Federal Communications Commission is set to revise the rules governing how many media outlets a single owner can control. But, we will have held a paltry six hearings nationwide.

You can reflect the views of many who were denied the chance to address the FCC. The media-ownership train is making its last stop in the Emerald City tonight. Unless you show up in force and demand we change course, we will have a train wreck dead ahead. And, our cherished democracy and free press will be casualties. Greater media concentration will be the survivor.

We need you on board to help steer this train to a different course. It is clear the FCC chairman does not want you to turn out and participate in tonight's hearing. After all, he announced this hearing at the last moment allowed by law so you wouldn't find out about it. But, you should not let us whistle by without coming out and making your voice heard. We will listen to every one of you who chooses to make a two-minute statement. It may take all night, but that is why you have the best coffee in America.

In 2003, the FCC attempted the most dramatic rollback of media-ownership protections in the history of American broadcasting. The FCC's media-consolidation order was rejected by Congress, the courts and the public. Three million people nationwide expressed their opposition. The federal court sent the rules back to us, and chastised the FCC for its failure to consider how the proposals would affect minority ownership and localism.

Now in 2007, the FCC once again wants to plow through any obstacle in the way and decide on these very important issues before laying the proper groundwork. I am deeply concerned with the timing of this hearing because you were not given adequate notice. And, I believe that we cannot move forward without first dealing with other pressing issues that have been pending far too long.

We have to complete our localism proceeding to implement steps to ensure media outlets are responsive to the concerns of all segments of their local communities. We still have to inform broadcasters of their public-interest obligations, which is especially important as we transition to digital TV. And, we have to take steps to improve the tragically few numbers of women and people of color who own media outlets.

With your participation, we will chart a course toward more coverage of local community, civic and electoral affairs, and more ownership of the media by women and minorities.

Tonight's hearing was rolled out in the fog in the hope none of you would notice. Denizens of the Pacific Northwest know well that fog will disappear quickly when enough sunlight is shone on it. You are the light that should guide our actions. You are the voices that matter.

I will always remember a public hearing in 2003 at the University of Washington, where a woman approached me and said, "Commissioner, never forget about us." I have never forgotten the people of Seattle. I will continue to put the interests of the public first, as the law requires, not the interests of the media giants we supposedly oversee.

Tonight, you should not let this hearing pass you by. Show the FCC that you mean business! Tell a neighbor, or tell a friend, about this hearing. Come out and show your presence and let your voice be heard. If you do not take a stand now, and the media consolidation train hurtles by, you may not get another chance as more local voices across the country get swallowed up and silenced forever.

I know you can make a difference, because you already have.

Jonathan S. Adelstein is one of two Democrats on the five-member Federal Communications Commission. The FCC's public hearing on media ownership begins at 4 p.m. today in Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle.

article originally published at .

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