Senator questions Wheeler nomination


Tom WheelerSen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is calling into question the nomination of Tom Wheeler as the next chair of the FCC. Sanders said the chairman’s chief role should be protecting consumers, and wonders if a former head of two lobbying organizations in the communications universe is a wise choice to fulfill that purpose.

Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party. He is not a member of the Commerce Committee, which will have the first crack at questioning Wheeler.

In his remarks, Sanders indicated that his primary concern is the increasing consolidation of media ownership. He noted that the concentration of power has gone from 50 or so companies in 1983 to six today.

Here are his full remarks:

“The appointment of a chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is a matter of enormous consequence. Before the Senate votes on Mr. Wheeler’s confirmation, the American people deserve to know where he stands on one of the most important issues facing our nation: the fact that more and more of our media are owned and controlled by fewer and fewer multi-national media conglomerates. Will Mr. Wheeler support that dangerous trend or will he oppose it?

“In 1983, the American media was dominated by 50 companies. Today, media ownership is overwhelmingly concentrated in just six corporations: Comcast, Disney, Time Warner, News Corp., Viacom and CBS. In a move that would make a bad situation worse, the FCC is considering whether to allow even more consolidation. Under the latest proposal, one corporation in the top 20 media markets could own a major newspaper, two television stations, up to eight radio stations and provide Internet service. I agree with the overwhelming majority of Americans who oppose more media consolidation because it would result in less local control, fewer outlets offering differing viewpoints and less ownership diversity.

“I also am troubled that President Obama would appoint the former head of two major industry lobbying associations to regulate the industry. The head of the FCC should be looking out first and foremost for the public interest and may have to stand up to some of our nation’s biggest media and telecom companies.

“I look forward to hearing from Mr. Wheeler regarding his views on media consolidation and other important issues that will come before the commission.”