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Free Press: Media Ownership Fight Moves to Capitol Hill This Week

DECEMBER 3, 2007
4:12 P

CONTACT: Free Press
Craig Aaron, 202-265-1490, x25

Media Ownership Fight Moves to Capitol Hill This Week
Congress Challenges FCC’s Rush to Change Rules Before The End of The Year

WASHINGTON - December 3 - In a showdown on Capitol Hill this week, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission will square off over changes to the nation’s media ownership rules that could unleash more consolidation across the country.

“Americans don’t want more media consolidation,” said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press. “But despite overwhelming public opposition and all the available evidence, a slim majority at the FCC is ignoring popular will to do special favors for a handful of media moguls. Congress needs to remind the FCC Chairman that he answers to the American people, not Rupert Murdoch and Sam Zell.”

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has proposed lifting the longstanding ban on one company owning both the daily newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market. He has pushed for a vote on his proposal by Dec. 18.

On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on the bipartisan Media Ownership Act of 2007 (S. 2332) — a bill that would direct the FCC to conduct a separate proceeding on localism and create an independent minority and female ownership task force before moving forward with any changes to media ownership limits. The bill — which was introduced by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) would also give the public a 90-day comment period on any proposed rules.

See details of the Senate mark-up here.

On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet will hold an FCC oversight hearing, at which all five commissioners are expected to appear. Members will likely grill Chairman Martin about his failure to address the crisis in minority media ownership, plans to eliminate the longstanding ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership, and last week’s controversial decision to let Tribune Co. continue operating both newspapers and TV stations in five cities.

See details of the House hearing here.

Last week, Free Press released two reports criticizing Martin’s rush for more media consolidation. Devil in the Details exposed how the loose and ambiguous “waiver” standard proposed by Martin creates a giant loophole for big media companies to sidestep the ban in any market and for any station.

Out of the Picture 2007 found minority-owned commercial TV stations decreased by 8.5 percent last year on Martin’s watch — with the number of black-owned stations falling 60 percent.

“What the FCC is proposing would result in sweeping changes to the American media landscape that would leave us with fewer competing voices and less diversity on the public airwaves,” said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press. “Kevin Martin wants Congress to believe he’s making a modest compromise. But his rhetoric doesn’t match reality.”



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