FCC testimony on media ownership: Jean Godden

Thank you so much, Commissioners Adelstein and Copps, for giving Seattleites an opportunity to speak on this matter of grave concern to all those who value an informed citizenry.

As a career journalist, 30 years as a journalist and now as an elected member of the City Council, I am more alarmed than most over proposals for unprecedented cut consolidation of the media. In recent years consolidation already has drastically reduced the independent avenues of communications in this country. As you know, to allow more consolidation through the ability to own TV and radio stations as well as newspapers in a single market is a very scary prospect for three people.

In past years, we in the Seattle metropolitan region have had access to more independent outlets then most. But we, too, have seen consolidation among the papers and the electronic media. The number of independent voices has been slowly but drastically reduced and many of those voices have been silenced forever. Recognizing that loss, the Seattle City Council on Monday, November 27, 2006, joined a coalition of consumer public interest, media reform and organized labor groups, and passed Rresolution 30937 supporting a Bill of Media Rights.

This resolution, you probably know, is not a first - it builds upon a 2003 City Council Rresolution (30581), and it rightly observes that a free and vibrant media comprised of diverse voices and opinion is the lifeblood of American democracy. I brought for each of the commissioners a copy of this resolution. It was co-sponsored by the council president Nick Licata and by me; and it was voted upon unanimously by the Seattle City Council. It quotes a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the First Amendment protects the publics right to uninhibited marked place of ideas in which truth will prevail and calls for suitable access to social, political, aesthetic, moral and other ideas and experiences.

What matters greatly to the city also is the parallel concern, and I’m sure you’re aware of it -- the attempts to limit the ability of local government to negotiate with their cable providers. It was through such negotiation that earlier this year Seattle was able to expand provision for a citizen-accessed network. The franchise agreement provides free access to the internet for schools, low income, libraries, and immigrant communities. Finally, it enables Seattle’s municipal channel, channel 21, to broadcast 12 hours of arts programming for the next 10 years. We are very proud of this, and we hope that we will be able to continue to regulate our cable franchise. Without local access in these areas we may not be able to preserve small, independent voices that are essential in a democracy.

It is not freedom from but freedom for, not the right to broadcast and publish that the right be informed that is at the heart of the First Amendment. Commissioners, I want to thank you for your work on this issue and for listening to Seattle citizens regarding their concern on this issue. The Seattle city council urges the commissioners to preserve and protect a multitude of voices rather than granting monopoly rights to those who can own a broadcast station using the public airwaves.

I brought with me copies of this and also some remarks from Nick Licata, our council president. that he made on the passage of this media bill of rights resolution; and I’ll read just a little bit of it. He says:

Over the past 15 years, I have witnessed a significant lessening of local community representation in various forms of broadcast communications media. One example of such lessening is the elimination of certain public service requirements for TV and radio broadcasters.

In Seattle, I’ve seen a gradual reduction of programming relevant to local community interest. I have noticed a direct correlation between the rising concentration of media ownership and a lessening of diverse voices and opinions found in newspapers. I think it would be a mistake to interpret the fact there are many more sources of news information and entertainment then there were years ago with an expectation that more sources necessarily produces a greater variety even as the number of media outlets increase, content conforms to fewer and fewer owners of those outlets.

I urge you to join with Seattle and other cities across the U.S. in supporting the right of local communities to have more representation by limiting media ownership concentration and this is signed Nick Licata, our council president. Thank you commissioners.

article originally published at .

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