The Democracy Papers
Stop the FCC's media bundling
The preservation of an independent press cleared one hurdle this week and now faces another. The U.S. Senate passed a "resolution of disapproval" Thursday night that would roll back a disastrous new media cross-ownership rule.
The Democracy Papers is a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech. Technology has created space for more voices, yet fewer and fewer are heard.
The American press and media are being decimated by consolidation. This transformation from many owners into five or six large corporations and the lessening of small outlets for radio, newspapers, magazines and music are chilling a once robust marketplace of ideas. What should Americans do? This series explores the arguments and the backlash.
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The preservation of an independent press cleared one hurdle this week and now faces another.
The U.S. Senate passed a "resolution of disapproval" Thursday night that would roll back a disastrous new media cross-ownership rule. The U.S. House of Representatives will now consider a companion resolution introduced by Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, and Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island.A strong House showing is important to thwart a promised veto by President George W. Bush.
The rule change was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in December. Previous language forbade companies from owning a newspaper, television station and radio station in the same market.
The new regulation, which was pushed by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and the other two Republicans commissioners, would pertain to the nation's top 20 media markets. The rule, which allows a company to own a newspaper and broadcast outlet in the same market, is filled with loopholes that would extend beyond the top-20 markets and encourage large corporations to trade news outlets as any other commodity.
This is not the first time Congress has tried to correct an FCC mistake. The Senate passed a similar resolution of disapproval in 2003, the last time the FCC tried to blow up the cross-ownership rule. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., sponsored the 2003 resolution and the one that just passed. Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, led opposition to the resolution in 2003.
Before the most recent vote, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., spoke eloquently and passionately from the Senate floor about the importance of a strong cross-ownership rule.
"The FCC media-ownership rules were created decades ago to foster the three long-standing goals of U.S. media policy — competition, localism and diversity of voices ... " Cantwell said. "I ask my colleagues to step up and ensure the Senate does [its] job correctly."
The House, which rejected the 2003 resolution, needs to be in lockstep with its Senate partners and ensure the FCC does its job correctly.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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