Music legends speak out against media consolidation in Nashville

[Free Press statement]

More than 500 Nashville residents joined country music legends at Belmont University s Massey Performing Arts Center today to speak out against media consolidation. The event, the second official Federal Communications Commission hearing, gave the public a chance to tell the FCC how proposed changes to media ownership limits would adversely affect their lives and work.

After thanking Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate for welcoming the Commission to her hometown, Chairman Kevin Martin said, "I can t think of a better place to go than Music City to hear various views on media ownership and its impact on the music industry."

Nashville didn t disappoint. Dozens of people came from at least six states to share their views with the FCC.

"If anyone tries to tell you that Big Media s push for more consolidation has gone away, don t believe it," said Commissioner Michael Copps. "They haven t gone away, and their lawyers and lobbyists haven t gone away either. So if we are going to go on to a broader national dialogue on the future of the media in our democracy, it will be because of citizen action from millions of Americans and testimony at hearings like this one."

"The law tells us that we're supposed to promote the public interest," said Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein to the enthusiastic Nashville crowd. "And I think you, the public, know best what's in your interest and not the lobbyists that we hear so much from inside the Beltway."

The event featured panel discussions with labor leaders, broadcasters, and some of country music s biggest names George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Naomi Judd, Big and Rich, Cowboy Troy, Dobie Gray whose music is increasingly at the mercy of a consolidated radio industry.

"The consolidation of the radio industry has kept me from playing on the radio," said country legend George Jones. "You know sugar is sweet. But too much can kill you. I ask the FCC Commissioners not to let the radio industry consolidate any further so that my fans and my public can continue to hear my music. Please don't make it any rougher for recording artists like me or for tomorrow's rising stars."

"Big radio is bad radio," said Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America. "If left to their own devices, Big Radio is just going to get bigger and the music is just going to get worse. Somebody must save these people from themselves. It's time to let local radio be local again."

Before inviting Commissioner Copps to try her chicken and dumplings, Grammy-award-winner Naomi Judd said, "You have five people on your commission who are going to be in charge of the future of media. I urge these five chosen commissioners to hear the voice of public interest before the voice of special interests."

"If media ownership rules back in 1967 were like they are today, the world would never have heard of Dolly Parton," said Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Porter Wagner, who discovered Parton.

A broad-based coalition of local and national groups worked to turnout the public to the Nashville event. They included the American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), The Belcourt Theater, Center for Rural Strategies, Christian Community Broadcasters, Communications Workers of America, Consumers Union, EarthMatters Tennessee, Free Press, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Nashville Peace and Justice Center, Newspaper Guild-CWA, Prometheus Radio Project, Rainbow/PUSH, Tennessee Alliance for Progress, Tennessee Healthcare Campaign, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Tennessee Independent Media Center, and WRFN Radio Free Nashville.

"The creative community of Nashville has paid a heavy price for media consolidation," said Craig Aaron, communications director of Free Press, the media reform group that coordinates the StopBigMedia.com Coalition. "Today they joined with everyday Nashville citizens to speak out for a more diverse, local and democratic media system. It's time the FCC really heard these voices and stopped the wholesale handover of our public airwaves to a few corporations."

Following the first panel, the four commissioners (Commissioner Robert McDowell cancelled his trip at the last minute) listened to concerns about the quality of local news and programming, lack of diversity over the airwaves, and the barriers placed on independent content and local control by Big Media corporations.

"These days, finding a local DJ is harder than finding a two dollar gallon of gasoline," said Bruce Bouton of the Recording Musicians Association (RMA) International. "And local musicians getting on the radio -- forget about it. Deregulation is slowly strangling the music business."

"Are we here because people have been beating down your door with a burning desire for our media to go into the hands of fewer and fewer corporations? Of course not," said Lonnie Atkinson, a local Nashville DJ. "We are concerned citizens that are trying to believe that there are some parts of our system that are not broken. Please do not let us down."

To date more than 75,000 people have used tools and resources at StopBigMedia.com to file public comments to the FCC as it considers rewriting current media ownership limits.

To read more about the official FCC public hearing in Nashville, visit www.stopbigmedia.com/=nashville

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