Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

With Dubya's support, GOP dominated FCC votes to relax media ownership rules

This is a sad day for democracy and media diversity:
The Federal Communications Commission, overturning a 32-year-old ban, voted Tuesday to allow broadcasters in the nation's 20 largest media markets to also own a newspaper.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was joined by his two Republican colleagues in favor of the proposal, while the commission's two Democrats voted against it.

Martin pushed the vote through despite intense pressure from House and Senate members on Capitol Hill to delay it.

The chairman, however, has the support of the White House, which has pledged to turn back any congressional action that seeks to undo the vote.
Though Dubya given his assurance that he will veto any legislation to roll back Martin's railroad, there's a chance that there may be enough votes in Congress to thwart a veto. A number of Republican senators are opposed to the relaxation of the rules. The total number of signatories to Senator Cantwell's letter yesterday alone added up to a fourth of the Senate.

The other possibility is legal action, which was what stopped the previous relaxation of the rules (in 2003, when Michael Powell was FCC Chairman).

The FCC's two Democrats spoke out strongly against the vote, blasting Martin and his fellow GOP commissioners Robert McDowell and Deborah Taylor Tate for ignoring the American people's fierce opposition to the changes:
Michael J. Copps, a Democratic commissioner who has led a nationwide effort against relaxing the media ownership rules, said the rule was nothing more than a big Christmas present to the largest conglomerates.

“In the final analysis,” Mr. Copps said, “the real winners today are businesses that are in many cases quite healthy, and the real losers are going to be all of us who depend on the news media to learn what’s happening in our communities and to keep an eye on local government.”

“Despite all the talk you may hear today about the threat to newspapers from the Internet and new technologies, today’s order actually deals with something quite old-fashioned,” Mr. Copps said. “Powerful companies are using political muscle to sneak through rule changes that let them profit at the expense of the public interest.”
We call on Congress, especially Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, to act immediately to reverse the FCC's betrayal of the public interest today.

UPDATE: Senator Maria Cantwell is not happy with the FCC:
There is nothing modest about the Commission's new media ownership rules, despite how they try to spin it.

In particular, the loopholes for granting waivers for cross ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets will open the gates to increased media consolidation in media markets of all sizes. Even before day one of this process we knew where the Chairman stood - helping big media get even bigger. While I am disappointed by the vote, I don't see today's action as being the final word.
We're thankful for Senator Cantwell's work on media diversity, but puzzled by Senator Patty Murray's silence on this important matter. Surprisingly, her name was missing from the signatories of yesterday's letter, which also included two other Northwest senators: Oregon's Ron Wyden and Idaho's Larry Craig.


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