Big media companies want to get bigger and Federal Communication Commission chair Kevin Martin wants to help them. For the past 18 months there has been a proposal to allow media companies to own more in individual media markets. FCC chair Kevin Martin first laid out such plans in June of 2006 and continues to be willing to push forward what media conglomerates want. Fortunately, Martin’s relationship to big media has become increasingly scrutinized.
It was reported in the Los Angeles Times recently that Martin is “facing a congressional inquiry into the FCC’s procedures and allegations of flawed research studies, suppressing data, ignoring public input and holding hearings with minimal notice.” Martin was questioned at a December 5 hearing held in the House of Representatives with “Democrats accusing Mr. Martin of rushing through changes without giving the public sufficient opportunity to comment on his plans.” Rep. John Dingell (D. MI) said, “The victim in this breakdown at the agency is a fair, open, and transparent regulatory process. The real loser, of course, is the public interest and the American consumer.” However, Republicans have said that Martin’s proposal on loosening media ownership rules “didn’t go far enough.”
An educational and organizing effort by Free Press has not only stalled the effort to ram through Martin’s proposal, but they were also able to work with the grassroots organization Reclaim the Media to turn out 1,100 people at a hearing in Seattle to tell the FCC that they want no more media ownership consolidation. One issue that activists have been raising about media consolidation is that the first media outlets to get gobbled up are primarily minority and female owned, which are already disgustingly low in number. In a recent online article Free Press stated:
“Overall, nearly 90 percent of minority-owned stations are not ranked among the top four in their respective markets. If the ban is lifted, minority-owned stations will be targeted by newspaper owners seeking to purchase a station. And increased consolidation will only decrease opportunities for people of color to enter the market and purchase stations of their own.”
Now Free Press is mounting a campaign to pressure both the FCC and Congress to not allow the proposed changes to the FCC media ownership rules. They have an online petition to Congress asking that they pass the Media Ownership Act of 2007 before December 18. Here is the text of that petition:
I am writing to urge you to support S 2332, the “The Media Ownership Act of 2007.” This legislation will ensure that the Federal Communications Commission addresses the dismal state of female and minority ownership before changing any rules to unleash more media concentration.
Nearly 99 percent of the public comments received by the FCC oppose changing the nation’s media ownership rules to allow a handful of large conglomerates to swallow up more local media outlets. Congress rejected the same changes to the rules in 2003. Yet the FCC is still pushing a plan to overhaul the rules by the end of the year.
This legislation would mandate that the FCC give the public 90 days’ notice before holding a vote on new rules to ensure a full public accounting of the impact of media consolidation before changing the ownership limits. These steps are necessary to preserve diverse local media that meets the needs of our communities.
Diversity is the cornerstone of a democratic media system. Yet research by Free Press found that that while minorities make up 33 percent of the U.S. population, they own less than 8 percent of radio stations and 3 percent of TV stations.
This legislation would create an independent task force to address the crisis in minority media ownership.
Our democracy requires the free flow of local information from diverse voices. Please support the “The Media Ownership Act of 2007.”
Free Press is encouraging people to sign this online petition, to join their “Wall campaign” to take a stand for better public media , and to get others to join in.