More reaction to the FCC's moves


Almost nobody was completely satisfied with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s agenda, which he pushed through at Tuesday’s Open Meeting. Even those that agreed with one action disagreed with another. A single action was seen as going too far, or not far enough. Here are some more observations, from NCTA’s Kyle McSlarrow, Massachusetts Democrats John Kerry and Ed Markey, PTC’s Tim Winter and AFTRA’s Tom Carpenter.
* National Cable & Telecommunications Association President & CEO Kyle McSlarrow: We are pleased that a majority of Commissioners again rejected a plan to consider a multicast must carry mandate. Consumers will be better served if we could all focus on getting ready for the digital broadcast transition instead of repeatedly having to reject stale ideas that would harm consumers, undermine the digital transition and violate the Constitution. However, in 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals soundly rejected on First Amendment grounds the precise cable ownership cap that the Commission adopted again today. The Court of Appeals found such a cap to be unjustified and out of touch with the competitive marketplace as it existed six years ago. In the intervening years, competition among satellite, telephone and cable companies and the variety and amount of independent programming has only increased. We are confident that a court will again reject conclusions driven by a political agenda to target the cable industry that are completely at odds with the realities of a dynamic and competitive marketplace that is providing greater consumer choice and value.
* Sen. John Kerry (D-MA): By rushing through this vote today, Chairman Martin did the bidding of big corporate interests and threatened to further marginalize independent media, directly limit diversity, and damage America’s public discourse. Chairman Martin was warned that ignoring the will of the Commerce Committee would have consequences, and I will work hard with my colleagues on the appropriations committee to ensure that the FCC’s funding reflects Chairman Martin’s decision to go against the commission’s own charter and limit media diversity rather than foster it.
* Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA): I am disappointed that the FCC did not give these media ownership proposals additional time for full review by the public and Congress. Further deliberation on these issues would have increased the chances of coming to a greater consensus on Chairman Martin’s plan, including possible agreement on additional proposals that could have better promoted diversity, localism, and competition in the media marketplace. I am particularly concerned about the process by which last minute waivers were granted to dozens of existing media combinations without public input. I am eager for the FCC to make concrete progress on minority media ownership issues and on promoting the historic value of localism in media policy early next year and intend to press the commission to take such action. Though I wish the chairman had given this issue more time and delayed today’s vote, I am encouraged by reports that the FCC appears to have addressed positively, in part, several areas of ambiguity in Chairman Martin’s original media ownership proposal. I intend to fully review the contents of the order the commissioners voted upon today.
* Parents Television Council President Tim Winter: Broadcasters are required to use the public airwaves to serve the public interest, and at the same time they are able to reap immense financial benefit. This creates an inherent potential for a conflict of interest, especially when billions of dollars are at stake. It is therefore incumbent upon other media outlets to provide a check and balance by reporting objectively about how the public airwaves are being exploited. Experience has shown us that newspapers do not take TV or radio stations to task when they are jointly owned by the same media conglomerate. At hearings across the United States over the past two years, the overwhelming message from the public was that media conglomerates regularly and routinely place their own corporate interest ahead of the public interest. With today’s announcement, the FCC has turned a deaf ear to the prevailing public sentiment voiced at each and every localism hearing.
* Tom Carpenter, AFTRA General Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs: As the ownership rules are relaxed, we will see even further consolidation and editorial control by just a few corporations. This rule change is contrary to the FCC’s mandate to safeguard diversity of local voices and the public interest.