Tuesday, December 18, 2007

FCC Votes for Monopoly, Congress Must Vote for Democracy

by John Nichols

The Federal Communications Commission has, as expected, voted along party lines to approve the demand of Rupert Murdoch and other communications-industry moguls for a loosening of limits on media monopolies in American cities.

Now, the real fight begins.

There was never any doubt that FCC chair Kevin Martin, a Bush-Cheney administration appointee and acolyte, would lead the two other Republican members of the commission to a 3-2 endorsement of a move to begin dismantling the historic “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership” ban which has long served as the only barrier to the buying by one powerful individual or corporation of newspapers, television and radio stations and other media outlets in a community.

The two dissidents on the commission — Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein — cast their expected votes against Martin’s plan to allow a company in the 20 largest media markets to own both newspapers and radio and television stations. The Martin plan also opens up smaller markets to monopoly exploitation allowing firms to apply for a waiver of the cross-ownership ban.

Arguing that the commission was bowing to pressure from media conglomerates without beginning to study the likely impact on local news coverage, minority ownership and other supposed concerns of the FCC, Copps told his fellow commissioners, “Today’s story is a majority decision unconnected to good policy and not even incidentally concerned with encouraging media to make our democracy stronger. We are not concerned with gathering valid data, conducting good research, or following the facts where they lead us.”

Copps said he had little doubt that Martin and the other two Republicans would move quickly to waive what remains of the cross-ownership ban and begin approving mergers in communities large and small across the whole country.

Martin’s move, while very much in line with the Bush’s administration’s radical pro-corporate agenda, goes against every signal the FCC has gotten from Congress, which is responsible for establishing regulations regarding the ownership of the public’s airwaves.......

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