Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to remove the longstanding “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership” ban that prohibits a local newspaper from owning a broadcast station in the same market. When the Commission voted today, 3-to-2 along party lines, they did so in spite of enormous public pressure and stern warnings from Congress.
But that’s not all. In a series of late night revisions to his rule, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin fattened his holiday gift to Big Media by granting permanent waivers to companies across the country who have been in breach of the cross-ownership ban for years. Already ignoring the millions who have spoken up against media consolidation, this last-minute immunity for Big Media is a slap in the face to the American people.
Today’s vote was a confirmation that the FCC has turned its back on its own mission and mandate to foster localism, diversity, and competition. The Commission, which is supposed to be dedicated to protecting the public interest on the public’s airwaves, has shown today that it is held hostage by Big Media’s campaign contributions and high-powered lobbyists. Their corrupt process and biased research ensured that they reached a preordained conclusion today to gut the few remaining protections for local media.
“For many years, the underpinnings of the Commission’s public interest analysis with regard to media have been to promote localism, competition, and diversity. Yet it is clear from the record that this decision undermines all of these goals,” said Commission Jonathan Adelstein. “As a result of newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, there is less local news in the market as a whole and there is less competition for stories and ideas since two competing entities become one. There is also less diversity, as a voice in the market is lost, and broadcast outlets are taken even further out of reach of women and people of color.”
Chairman Kevin Martin is ignoring the public will and defying the U.S. Senate. But the fight is far from over. In his comments at today’s FCC meeting Commissioner Michael Copps called on Congress and the American people to fix this broken and corrupt agency and put Chairman Martin in his place.
“The situation isn’t going to repair itself. Big media is not going to repair it. This Commission is not going to repair it,” said Copps. “But the people, their elected representatives, and attentive courts can repair it. Last time the Commission went down this road, the majority heard and felt the outrage of millions of citizens and Congress and then the court. Today’s decision is just as dismissive of good process as that earlier one, just as unconcerned with what the people have said, just as heedless of the advice of our oversight committees and many other Members of Congress, and just as stubborn—perhaps even more stubborn—because this time it knows, or should know, what’s coming. Last time a lot of insiders were surprised by the country’s reaction. This time they should be forewarned.”
In the past few months, more than 100,000 Americans spoke out against media consolidation. Just yesterday, more than two dozen senators vowed to throw out these new rules. And the courts won’t look too kindly on the broken and corrupt process that brought us to today’s vote.
The public simply won’t stand for another massive corporate handout. They are sick and tired of junk media and celebrity gossip being passed off as news. They want more choices, more variety, more diversity — not more of the same.
Today’s vote is not the end of a corrupt process, but rather, the beginning of a hugely important fight to fix a broken system and renew the public trust.