If FCC Rules in Favor of Corporations, the Public and Our Democracy Lose

Green Party of Connecticut Press Release

For Immediate Release Tuesday, May 6th 2003

For more information:
Tom Sevigny, co-chair, Green Party of Connecticut, 860 693 8344
Justine McCabe, co-chair, Green Party of Connecticut, 860 354 1822
Mike DeRosa, co-chair, Green Party of Connecticut, 860 956 8170
Michael Burns, Green Party, 860 871 7459, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Glenn Cheney, Green Party, 860 822 1270, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On June 2, 2003 the Federal Communications Commission is set to decide on important rules that regulate the media in America. The Green Party of Connecticut strongly urges the Commission to consider the profound public interest aspects of the current rules that at least somewhat stem the tide of media consolidation.

"The FCC decision will affect every single person in this country because it will affect the way we see and learn about the world through the media. If the FCC says that larger TV and print media can continue to buy up smaller ones, we will see an even more drastic cut in quality and diverse viewpoints in the news, this at a time when we need more discussion and insight about the world around us," said Michael Burns, Green Party member from Vernon.

People across the country, from grassroots activists to members of Congress, are raising their voices to stop the FCC's rush to open the floodgates to another wave of media mergers. Among the public interest protections under threat:

Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule. Prevents the owners of a broadcast station from owning daily newspapers in the same market, and vice versa.

National Broadcast Ownership Cap. Is meant to prevent one company from owning broadcast stations that reach more than 35 percent of U.S. households. The courts have asked the FCC to provide a fuller justification of the rule, but the FCC seems ready to give it up.

Local Radio Ownership Rule. Caps the number of radio stations a company can own in a single listening area to eight or less, depending on the area's size.

Duopoly Rule. Limits a company to owning two broadcast TV stations in a given market.

Dual Network Rule. Bars the major TV networks-- ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC-- from merging with each other.

If these rules are scrapped, big media's gain will be the public's loss. For example, without the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban, many communities may find their only local daily paper has been bought by one of the TV networks.

Chain ownership of newspapers, television and radio stations would likely increase dramatically, with all-too-familiar consequences: layoffs as formerly independent news divisions merge, less original content, and even further cuts in local affairs coverage.

Commercial broadcasting has gone through stunning negative changes in recent years, as deregulation and consolidation have shifted the balance of power to a small handful of companies with interests and investments spread across the media landscape. We now live in a world dominated by profit-driven media conglomerates more interested in delivering viewers to advertisers than in serving the needs of the public.

As the deadline nears, the pressure mounts on the commissioners. On March 19, 2003 Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) wrote a letter to Chairman Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State, Colin Powell, calling for a broader public debate in the FCC's media ownership review.

Green Party members, echo this call for expended discussion, reflecting the FCC's responsibility to enhance the public interest. According to Justine McCabe, Connecticut Green Party co-chair, "This country's airwaves belong to the American people, and the FCC is supposed to manage them in the public interest. Unfortunately, the current FCC leadership seems hostile to this very concept". For example, asked to explain his understanding of the public interest, Chairman Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State Collin Powell once told a audience of anti-trust lawyers in 2001 that he had "no idea" what it meant.

Not all FCC Commissioners are so ill-informed about its role in the public interest. On his own, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps has spoken out on the lack of adequate public debate this critical issue. Expressing his displeasure with the way the process will unfold at a recent forum he said, "In just over a month, the FCC will have voted on this, changed the rules, reconfigured the media landscape, and told the world that, 'sorry there's no opportunity or time for public comment on what has been decided.'"

Commissioner Copps outlined key principles he would like to see included as the Commission moves rapidly toward a vote. First, he said, "let's start with the premise that this is the people's property we are dealing with. We're talking about public airwaves and how they should be utilized to advance the interests of our citizens. Broadcasting is a business, but it's a very special business with large public purposes."

"The founding fathers gave the 1st amendment to the press to insure that the media would be the watch dog of the republic," said Mike DeRosa, co-chair of the Connecticut Green Party. "If the FCC allows further consolidations of our already compromised press, they will create an industry of media of lap dogs, who are only interested in making money for their corporate bosses instead of serving the informational needs of their country".

For more information on Michael Copp's remarks and on the FCC's broadcast ownership rules and the pending reexamination of those rules, visit the FCC at www.fcc.gov and www.fcc.gov/ownership or www.fcc.gov/mb/policy/own.html.

Useful background of the debate is also available at www.pbs.org/now.

Green Party of Connecticut www.ctgreenparty.org
Green Party of the United States www.gp.org

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