An Abridged Timeline of the FCC Media Ownership Rules Controversy (with selected Chicago highlights), 2002-2007

Posted by Mitchell - September 15, 2007 (entry 567)

• September 12, 2002: The FCC initiates its Third Biennial Review of ownership rules. The docket is opened to six rules: Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Prohibition, Local Radio Ownership, National TV Ownership Rule, Local TV Multiple Ownership, Radio/TV Cross-Ownership Restriction and the Dual Network Rule.

• October 1, 2002: FCC issues twelve studies on media ownership. Later the FCC extends by 30 days the length of time for public comments on these studies.

• October 18, 2002: Chicago activists proceed on a walking tour of downtown Chicago media outlets, wearing Halloween costumes, to raise awareness of the issue.

• December 4, 2002: FCC Chair Michael Powell announces public hearing on media ownership to be held in Richmond, Virginia. Some 120 people attend.

• January 11, 2003: CAN TV in Chicago airs a community forum “FCC: Past, Present Future” which discusses the ownership rules.

• January 16, 2003: FCC holds an unofficial public hearing on media ownership at Columbia University's Law School. About a dozen such unofficial hearings span the United States in the next six months.

• April 2, 2003: Northwestern University Law School in downtown Chicago hosts the Midwest Forum on Media Ownership. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps attends, as do 120 people in all.

• June 2, 2003: FCC votes to revise five of the six ownership rules, including eliminating the cross-ownership ban, in spite of an unprecedented 750,000 comments submitted to the docket, almost all in opposition (the previous record for any FCC docket was about 5,000 comments). On the weekend previous, protests against the rule changes were held in 14 cities.

• June 4, 2003: All five FCC commissioners stand before the Senate Commerce Committee, which openly criticizes the FCC decision. The outcry against the rule changes has now grown to affect Congress; by the end of the year, the issue ranks as the second-most discussed issue by constitutents (trailing only the 2003 launch of the Iraq war).

• June 10, 2003: Activists in Chicago protest FCC chair Michael Powell, who visits Chicago attending a conference of the National Cable Telecommunications Association.

• June 24, 2003: The Senate votes 55-40 to overturn the media ownership rules rewrite. The issue is blocked from a House vote by then House speaker, Chicago's own Dennis Hastert.

• September 3, 2003: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia grants an emergency order to stay the rules pending a lawsuit against the rules. Lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Andy Schwartzmann, later acknowledges that the stay was granted because the court acknowledged that “a million people” wrote in against the rule changes.

• September 4, 2003: A coalition of four groups hold a rally in Chicago's Tribune Plaza against the now-stayed rule changes. One website,, noted similar rallies on the same day in San Francisco, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles.

• December 18, 2003: Michael Powell visits Chicago's Sheraton Hotel to speak before the Economic Club of Chicago. A group of 20 activists brave the cold outside to protest.

• June 24, 2004: In Prometheus v. FCC, the Third Circuit rules against the FCC, deeming the rule changes “irrational” and “inconsistent”, keeping the stay in place and requiring the FCC to start anew on its attempt to revise the rules. All subsequent attempts to appeal the ruling in the next two years fail.

• January 21, 2005: FCC Chair Michael Powell resigns from the FCC. Later in the year, Powell takes a job with the equity firm Providence Equity Partners, which becomes a leading bidder for many ClearChannel radio stations.

• March 18, 2005: Commissioner Kevin Martin is appointed Powell's successor as FCC Chair.

• June 21, 2006: Kevin Martin announces a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, relaunching the FCC's attempt to change the ownership rules. Martin also promises to hold “half a dozen” hearings to solicit public feedback. Eleven unofficial and four official hearings follow in cities across the U.S. in the next 12 months.

• September 14, 2006: Former FCC economist Adam Canedub is quoted in an AP dispatch saying that Powell ordered the destruction of all copies of a draft study which connected consolidation of media ownership with poorer local TV news coverage. Within days, a second suppressed study concerning media concentration and the decline of the number of radio station owners is brought to light.

• November 17, 2006: Despite the revelations of suppressed studies and possible connections to Kevin Martin, the Senate votes to confirm Martin to a five-year term as FCC Chair.

• July 19, 2007: The FCC announces its fifth official hearing on media ownership will be held in Chicago.

• McChesney, Robert W., The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communications Politics in the 21st Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2003.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the individual members of Chicago Media Action who authored them, and not necessarily those of the entire membership of Chicago Media Action, nor of Chicago Media Action as an organization.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.