Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Media Ownership Rules — A Narrow Window?

Back in 2003, the FCC tried to change regulations concerning corporate ownership of media outlets. Then-chairman Michael Powell wanted to alter the rules without taking into account public opinion. Suffice it to say, there was unprecedented resistance in the form of citizen feedback, the bulk of which was decidedly negative. FMC collected and analyzed data on the public comments; the report can be found here.

Well, it’s happening again. The FCC just doesn’t seem to get it. When they previously attempted to change the rules, it resulted in serious blowback from the House, Senate and Third Circuit Court. Sure, there are more public hearings scheduled this time around, including one in Washington next week, for which the venue has still yet to be determined (!) But these hearings may be entirely superfluous in the eyes of current Chairman Kevin J. Martin.

A recent article in Condé Nast’s Portfolio magazine confirmed what many have come to suspect: Chairman Martin is aiming to limit the timeframe in which dissent can be registered.

“FCC commissioner Kevin Martin learned a lot from his predecessor's ill-fated attempt at media ownership deregulation. Above all, he learned that the public hates the idea of further consolidation -- so if you want to push through rules allowing it, you have to do it while no one's looking.”

And the New York Times even deemed the story worthy of front page treatment. In their reporting, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein calls Martin’s timetable “awfully aggressive.” Possibly provocative, definitely true.

According to Dow Jones, Martin hopes to schedule the rule changes vote for December 18. This ensures not only a narrow window for dissent, but also a particularly distracting season in which to discuss the issues.

Check out this must-see clip of Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) engaging in his own brand of protest:

Other Senators, including Barack Obama, have also registered their displeasure with the FCC’s tactics.

FMC has long opposed radio consolidation, because it severely limits musicians' odds of getting airplay.

Instead of focusing on further deregulation, shouldn’t the FCC be working towards enhancing localism, competition and diversity in all media?

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