Bush's War Against Democracy
FCC Puts Democracy on Mute
The Bush administration continues to try to undermine traditional American values. Here is a news report from Common Cause, a group representing hundreds of thousands of American citizens.
FCC vs. American ValuesThe Federal Communications Commission, ignoring the wishes of nearly three-quarters of a million citizens who told the agency that they opposed more media concentration, approved sweeping changes in media ownership rules that are likely to lead to much greater media consolidation. The changes had been pushed by Republican FCC Chairman Michael Powell, and were approved by his fellow Republican Commissioners, Kevin Martin and Kathleen Abernathy.
FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, both Democrats, voted against the rules changes.
“Today the Federal Communications Commission empowers America’s new Media Elite with unacceptable levels of influence over the media on which our society and our democracy so heavily depend,” said Copps. 'Clear Channelization' of the rest of the American media will harm our country,” Copps added, criticizing Powell for deciding on these rules changes through "a classic inside-the-Beltway process with too little outreach from the Commission and too little opportunity for public participation."
Adelstein said the vote marked “a sad day for me, and I think for the country. I’m afraid a dark storm cloud is now looming over the future of the American media. This is the most sweeping and destructive rollback of consumer protection rules in the history of American broadcasting.”
Before an auditorium packed with media activists, the FCC approved, on a 3 to 2 vote, rules changes that will permit one media corporation to own:
According to Adelstein, TV and radio stations and newspapers may share a common owner in communities where more than 72 percent of Americans live. Adelstein and Copps said that under the new rules, in some of the country’s largest cities one company could dominate the media landscape by owning three TV stations, eight radio stations, the cable TV system, cable TV stations and a community’s only daily newspaper.
- Up to three television stations, a newspaper, and 8 radio stations in the nation’s largest media markets.
- Two TV stations or a TV station and a daily newspaper in markets with at least five TV stations;
- TV stations in the aggregate that reach 45 percent of US TV households
The struggle is not over, Copps and Adelstein said, noting that it was now up to Congress to respond to the hundreds of thousands of citizens who want an independent media that expresses diverse views.
“The public stands little to gain and everything to lose by slashing the protections that have served them for decades. This plan is likely to damage the media landscape for generations to come. It threatens to degrade civil discourse and the quality of our society’s intellectual, cultural and political life.”
The FCC’s decision was the product of a process that was awash in special-interest money, and that saw industries that are supposed to be regulated telling the regulators how to proceed. The Center for Public Integrity recently revealed that over the past eight years, media companies and their associations paid for 2,500 travel junkets by FCC commissioners and staffers, at a cost of $2.8 million. The Center also revealed that FCC commissioners, their aides and top staffers hosted 71 off-the-record meetings with industry executives in the months leading up to today’s vote. At the same time, only five meetings were held with organizations representing the public interest.
Citizens across the United States are furious with FCC Chairman Powell for limiting public input by scheduling only one official hearing on the rules changes (while turning down at least several invitations to attend hearings on across the country at which other FCC commissioners were present), by withholding the changes until just three weeks before the vote, by neglecting to order adequate studies of the impact of these rule changes, and by refusing a request from Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein - as well as more than 120 members of Congress - for a delay in the vote.
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