WASHINGTON - AUGUST 3 - The Federal Communications Commission yesterday asked for public comment on a series of proposals on minority media ownership — after nearly a year of inaction on the issue. In the landmark 2004 Prometheus decision, the FCC was ordered to address minority ownership proposals as part of its review of media ownership rules. But despite requests from civil rights and public interest groups for further review of the proposals, the FCC waited until after the release of 10 massive new ownership studies to seek public comment.
Despite the complexity and seriousness of the proposed rulemaking, the public was given only a narrow two-month window to evaluate and respond to both the studies and the minority ownership proposals. FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps released a statement yesterday criticizing the agency for the inadequate time given for public comment.
Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner issued the following statement:
"The FCC's decision to rush the process of review and debate on the complex issue of media ownership does a major disservice to the public and this country's long history of democratic discourse.
"The FCC has jammed two extremely important media ownership proceedings into an inexplicably short and overlapping public comment cycle. It took the 10 teams of researchers nearly a year to conduct, and finally deliver — after much delay — the 10 official ownership studies. Yet the FCC expects the public to digest, analyze and comment on this research in just 60 days, and then respond to potentially hundreds of other parties' assessments in little more than two weeks.
"On top of this, the Commission is asking the public to weigh in on the very complex and important issue of minority ownership within the same arbitrarily truncated time period. The FCC has had a year to consider minority media ownership proposals, but has unreasonably chosen to move this issue forward while public focus is dispersed across the 10 official studies.
"The issue of minority media ownership is paramount. The FCC has a well-documented lack of understanding, oversight and action on this fundamental matter. The effort to short-circuit the public comment process is a sign that the Commission remains apathetic about adequately promoting a diverse and representative media."