Inslee: remarks at Seattle FCC hearing

There’s one thing I know, and that is the United States perhaps could do without a Senate, perhaps the United States could do without a House of Representatives; but it cannot do without a free and diversified media. This is the life blood which is another way of paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson who basically said, “If you had to make a choice of an America without a congress or an America without a free media he would do without congress.” The reason is that information is truly the sustaining life blood of democracy. Without a free flow of diversified multiple sources of information that beautiful organism we know as democracy will surely starve.

There are three reasons why I want to tell you why I feel so strongly about that, and why we have to stop any repeated efforts to stop media consolidation. First, is the fellow who’s the son of a neighbor of mine, who tonight is in Baghdad after being called back for his second tour of duty in Iraq. And, if you want to see what happens to American democracy when you have a failure to have a free-flowing combative debate about an issue or where questions were not asked of its government with the rigor and aggressiveness we should have had, look at Iraq. We need an aggressive, diversified question-asking media to prevent failures of democracy like Iraq. I feel strongly about this effort. We have seen, unfortunately, a consolidation that does create conditions where that can happen again.

Secondly, I want to say that the jury is in with the guilty verdict of this question of whether or not local or foreign ownership has an impact on local news. Perhaps the most important news is our local news, it certainly has been during the weather the last several days. But, what some researcher has shown by the FCC itself of some research that they tried to suppress concluded that when there is foreign ownership outside of the local community, you get 20% less local information in your local TV coverage. We need to have a policy that stands up for local coverage, that one-fifth diminution of local coverage will not stand, will not stand up to our local coverage.

Third issue. Some have suggested that congress and the FCC are obsolete because the internet will solve all of these woes. That now we have the internet, we don’t have to have rules against massive octopuses of corporate interlocking ownership of consolidated media. That is not true, and I will tell you why I know that. The Internet is a wonderful thing, it can allow our teenagers to talk 24/7 and adults not know about it. So, it does some great things. But it can solve this problem. I will tell you why. The recent research by a group called Crawford and Johnson found that 75% of people who use the internet check out local news essentially from local TV stations and newspapers through the internet at least twice a week. Even though the internet is serving as a conduit for information, the seed germinating source remains local media companies. And to maintain that diversity we must maintain these rules against consolidation.

So those are 3 reasons I’m here tonight to thank you for your participation in this democratic experiment. And, I want to comment on what you have already achieved. Last year, the FCC because they would not listen to these 2 gentleman, attempted an end run around the democratic tradition to adopt and a rule that would essentially allow consolidation to go out half caught. These 2 gentlemen went around the country and let Americans know what was at risk. And because of their leadership and your response -- and we were out at the hub, many of you and I -- a year or so ago, we stopped the FCC in its tracks and we’re going to stop them again in their tracks if they want to allow this consolidation to occur. We will succeed tonight, we will succeed because of people like you around the country making their voices heard, and we’re going to make sure Congress hears that message.

Now let me tell you, there is some good news in Congress. I think there can be a developing bipartisan effort in congress to make sure that democracy is protected. This is something that republicans and democrats can equally share importantly importance about. This is not a partisan issue, and I am hoping that ultimately a bill that I have co sponsored HR2052 the preservation of localism bill can prevent consolidation by preventing ownership of over 35% nationally and HR2462 to protect diversity and media to stop the FCC from going down this way. I believe we can have a bipartisan red state and blue state success. We all believe in democracy we all believe in a liberty and a media. Keep your voices loud and strong and we will have a democracy for another couple hundred years. Thank you very much.

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