'Tis the season to take potshots at the Chairman


The Teamsters remain steamed about the pending sale of Tribune Company to an ESOP headed by Sam Zell. They claim that the "employee-owned" implication is hollow, since the employees will have no say in the company’s governance, and that owning broadcast properties will be illegal since Zell, not the employee owners, will be running the stations. Meanwhile, watchdogs are also lining up to oppose next week’s media ownership vote.

"Apparently the FCC was tuned out during its public listening tour," said James P. Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. "In its rush to judgment, the Commission has failed to enforce its current rules or protect the public interest."

Hoffa notes that Zell and "his handpicked Board of Directors and ESOP Trustee" will be controlling the company. "This third party ownership violates the FCC’s requirement that stations be controlled by their owners, and undermines the public interest and the FCC’s mission of promoting localism and diversity."

Meanwhile, a group of consumer groups including Free Press, Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union filed comments on the ownership proceeding, and did not do so happily. "We meet this arbitrary deadline of Dec. 11 under protest," they wrote. "This proposal is a post-it note conclusion to one of the most complex, controversial and important public policies the Commission has made in many years. Unless Chairman Martin remedies procedural flaws, eliminates dangerous and vague exceptions, and thoroughly expands meaningful minority ownership and local programming needs, his plan will not serve the public interest or meet minimum legal fairness requirements for FCC rules. The Commission should offer a Further Notice that explains, defines and defends its new rule in a cogent and intellectually consistent manner. Only then can such a rule be expected to win the confidence of the public and stand the tests of time and judicial scrutiny."