"Did you ever notice that the FCC is always ready to run the fast break for big media, but it's the four-corner stall when it comes to serving the public interest?" commissioner Michael Copps said. "Well, it's fast-break time again." He pointed out that he had been in Seattle twice before for media-ownership hearings, including in March 2003, just before "then-vhairman of the FCC Michael Powell shoved his near-catastrophic rules through the commission."
Powell succeeded with the vote of current chairman Kevin Martin and against the strong dissents of Copps and Democrat Jonathan Adelstein, who also took aim at consolidation and at the "last-minute" nature of the Seattle hearing. "It is more than coincidence that the same last-minute announcement was made for the Washington, D.C., localism hearing that was just held on Halloween. This pattern points to a conscious effort to minimize turnout and to just check the box that these hearings were held. The goal is to let big media have their way," he said, telling the audience that they were "just a little speed bump along the road to further media concentration."
Looking to rally the troops, Adelstein said: "You are here tonight because you will not let your voices be swept under the rug as the FCC does the bidding of media conglomerates If the majority of the FCC opposes the majority of America in the name of the 'public interest,' you will see a willful act of arrogance. You will see a handful of unelected bureaucrats telling you, 'We know what's in your interest better than you know for yourselves.' That will face a harsh judgment by your elected representatives on both sides of the aisle in Congress, with Washington state leading the way."
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One member of the commission's Republican majority, Deborah Taylor Tate, said the public interest "may mean different things to different people."
She suggested that interest could be served by the FCC recognizing the "alternative formats and technologies through which local news is delivered to citizens today," the "global, digital, personalized, mobile information sources," available "whenever and wherever they may be," and taking those into account "when fashioning media-ownership rules that will take us into the next decade, where an even more tech-savvy generation awaits."
The generally deregulatory 2003 ownership-rule rewrite was ultimately stayed by a federal court and sent back to the FCC for better justification, which Martin is trying to do by the end of the year, with a lot of pushback from Hill Democrats who oppose consolidation.
© 2007 Broadcasting & Cable