The FCC Is in the Hot Seat
Last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a “resolution of disapproval” – a bill that would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to gut media ownership rules. The bill already has nearly 20 co-sponsors.
Yesterday, Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, stepping up their investigation of the agency’s ability to protect and manage the public’s airwaves.
Citing credible sources within the agency – including both current and former staff – the representatives suggest that there have been management and procedural problems at the FCC that have led to “waste, abuse, and fraud.” In the letter, the representatives call for whistleblowers to step forward and offer an anonymous contact form where allegations can be submitted.
Today, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) introduced the House version of the “resolution of disapproval.” This companion to the Senate bill is a signal that both chambers of Congress are ready to step up to overturn the FCC’s big handout to Big Media.
“We need to use every tool available to prevent further weakening of media-ownership rules,” said Inslee. Reichert added: “While I respect the free market, I believe it is a role of government to stand between corporations and consumers when the public interest is at stake. We want local media to remain local, diverse and free.”
The FCC is also facing a number of lawsuits related to their decision to lift the 30-year-old cross-ownership ban that stops one company from owning the major daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same community. A similar lawsuit in 2003 ultimately overturned the FCC’s previous attempt to dismantle media ownership rules. This week, a panel of judges announced that all these lawsuits would be rolled into one hearing in San Francisco later this year.
Citizens Are Turning Up the Heat
Pressure is mounting against the FCC because of the way it has handled media ownership; for its refusal to address the crisis in female and minority ownership; and for its flawed and biased process that consistently serves Wall Street instead of Main Street.
More than 500,000 letters already have been sent to Congress and the FCC calling for a more local, diverse, and competitive media. At public hearings across the country last year in places as diverse as Portland, Maine, Chicago and Seattle, thousands of people came out to ask the FCC to stop media consolidation.
Hundreds of citizens visited their lawmakers’ hometown offices, asking them to protect local news, support regional music, and stop Big Media. All of this citizen activism has created incredible momentum for change.
For too long decisions about media policy have been made behind closed doors, and the only people who got a say were corporate lobbyists and Big Media executives. Now the American public is stepping up to defend their communities from further consolidation and demand better media for all.
But we have to keep the pressure on to hold the FCC accountable and make sure our policymakers hear from as many people as possible.
Let’s build the movement and keep the momentum going.