Obama asks Martin to slow down


More particularly, Barack Obama (D-IL), one of the leading candidates for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, wants issues on minority ownership and localism addressed before moving on to easing ownership restrictions, if that is FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s goal. Noting media reports stating Martin’s goal of a 12/18/07 on as yet unspecified media ownership rules, Obama wrote, "I believe both the proposed timeline and process are irresponsible. Minority owned and operated newspapers and radio stations play a critical role in the African American and Latino communities and bring minority issues to the forefront of our national discussion. However, the Commission has failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism, and as a result, it is in no position to justify allowing for increased consolidation of the market. Moreover, 30 days of public review of a specific proposed change is insufficient to assess the effect that change would have on the media marketplace or the rationale on which any such proposal is based."

Stating the need for a special panel to study the minority ownership issue, he continued, "I object to the agency moving forward to allow greater consolidation in the media market without first fully understanding how that would limit opportunities for minority, small business, and women owned firms.

He also took the Commission to task for its "…propensity to vet proposals through leaks to the press and lobbyists," as reported by the Government Accountability Office. Obama noted that it was unclear just what rules changes were being proposed, but stated that whether or not they will be crafted well enough to get past the courts is immaterial if Congress and the public are not given sufficient time to determine whether or not it "constitutes sound policy," and that the FCC should be able to defend its actions "in public discourse and debate."

RBR/TVBR observation: We doubt that Martin was under the illusion that he could slip this matter through quietly, and that truth has already been amply demonstrated. Watchdogs and politicians alike seem as if they’ve been waiting to spring into action on the first mention of acting on the court-ordered reconsideration of the 6/2/03 rulemaking attempt. And although media ownership issues were being hotly debated in 2004 but played virtually no role whatsoever in Bush v. Kerry. Not so this time: Candidates on the Democratic side are clearly aware of the issue this time and will speak out about it, even as Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill go to work on it. This is going to be a contentious, noisy debate.