FCC testimony on media ownership: Larry Hildes

My name is Larry Hildes. I am the litigation director for the National Lawyers Guild Center for Democratic Communications (among other hats that I wear). Thank you again Commissioners for coming. It speaks volumes that the empty space where the three commissioners who, at this point, have majority control of what the FCC does are out there in the void, and those commissioners cannot be bothered to hear the voices of the people. That speaks volumes to how much they care. It speaks volumes to how much they care that in spite of the Courts of Appeals ruling that media diversity […] that increasing the monopoly, that cutting the caps is against the mandate of the FCC that they are trying to do it again. We appreciate you being here, we appreciate your keeping up the fight. Thank you.

Most of the time when I deal with the FCC, it’s – frankly – adversarial. We represent a community radio station in Brattleboro, Vermont, that couldn’t get a license. There was no community station in Brattleboro before they went on the air. There was no radio station really for Brattleboro before they went on the air. The answer of the FCC to repeated requests was to try to drive the station that was there off the air, and we responded by pointing out that the FCC was – had abandoned its pre-emption of the field. It was not fulfilling its role on behalf of the public by not promoting diversity, by not promoting local stations, by allowing further and further consolidation. We were able to defeat an injunction and then, only then, finally a license was given to a community group to operate a station in Brattleboro, Vermont (a place that is in a valley that can’t get commercial radio).

As my wife mentioned, we have no public – no TV stations in Bellingham; we have a repeater for Northwest Public Radio, and we have one LPFM station that’s a museum that will not broadcast anything that happened after 1945. This is supposed to be community for us? We have half a newspaper that couldn’t be bothered to cover the primary elections back in September because the primaries weren’t newsworthy, that will not cover any public demonstration, that will not cover most public events.

We ask that you keep up the fight. We ask that you do your job. Don’t tell us that NPR is an alternative. Yesterday for the first time, my wife and I heard a discussion on NPR, and they were talking about the repression of the media and the fact that the media was saying whatever the government was telling them. I nudged Karen and said, ‘Look. They are finally covering this!’ And then the words ‘Vladimir Putin’ came out, and we found where they were really covering this. Consolidation will hurt this country. It destroys democracy. It destroys community. Thank you.

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