One last round of FCC commentary


The one thing that has been nearly impossible to find in the aftermath of the FCC’s 12/18/07 Open Meeting is an observer who was moved to issue a statement and who also thought that FCC Chairman and his 8th Floor supporters got everything right. Today we’ll publish remarks from NAA’s John Sturm, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), and UCC’s J. Bennett Guess.
* John F. Sturm, President and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America: The FCC has finally taken modest action to chip away at the obsolete newspaper cross-ownership ban after more than three decades. Few, if any, issues have been examined more thoroughly by the FCC in recent history, and the Commission’s order responds to a congressional requirement to review the rules and a court remand that occurred three years ago. Today’s vote is only a baby step in the actions needed to maintain the vitality of local news, in print and over-the-air, in all communities across the nation. Out of the 210 designated market areas that exist in the U.S., today’s decision would permit cross-ownership only in the 20 largest markets and would provide no assurance of relief from the ban in medium-sized and smaller markets. In a media landscape that has undergone radical changes in the last 30 years, the outright prohibition on cross-ownership no longer makes sense and restricts unfairly the availability of local news in hundreds of communities. The FCC needs to level the regulatory playing field among traditional daily newspapers, broadcasters and their competitors. Eliminating the cross-ownership ban completely would enhance localism by enabling broadcasters to increase local news and would not distract from the diversity of viewpoints available to local audiences.
* Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT): The FCC has made a bad situation worse. Unless Congress undoes this ruling, as I hope it will, fewer and fewer big media conglomerates will control what Americans see and hear and read. We are not going to have the kind of vibrant democracy that we need unless we discuss serious issues facing the middle class and working families in this country, and I’m not sure the corporate media wants us to do that. The consequences of media consolidation go to the heart of the democratic process. In my view, it will be very dangerous for our country and communities around America when one company is able to own a local newspaper, television station and radio station. Opposing points of view won’t be heard and our democracy will suffer.
* Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY): FCC Chairman Martin and his two Republican counterparts at the agency are continuing to chip away at the American public’s right to receive news from a wide variety of sources. By repealing a rule that has prevented television station owners from also owning a newspaper in the same major market, the FCC is limiting rather than expanding the number of sources from which Americans can get their news. Chairman Martin’s decision to push today’s cross-ownership vote forward without adequate time for public comment is the latest in a series of disappointing, but not surprising, steps by this out of touch FCC to further consolidate media ownership and deny the American public access to the diverse array of news, information, and entertainment that they deserve and, quite frankly, are owed. I am hopeful that the Congress will be able to swiftly add language in the omnibus appropriations bill to block this new rule change. If not, then reversing this new rule will most certainly be a top priority as we enter 2008. Since the FCC refuses to act in the best interest of the American public then it is up to the Congress to do the job for them."
* J. Bennett Guess, the UCC Director of Communications: "This decision supports powerful corporate interests at the expense of the average person’s right to access inclusive, locally-based, grassroots media. It concentrates media into the hands of the elite few to the detriment of the many – – especially diverse audiences. It flies in the face of everything the UCC and our media justice partners have been advocating for decades.