CMA statement about the FCC 2007 cross-ownership vote

Posted by Mitchell - December 18, 2007 (entry 588)

Chicago Media Action (CMA) is dismayed at the FCC's revision of the TV-newspaper cross-ownership rule. The FCC has ignored nearly unanimous public input opposing media concentration -- including hundreds of Chicagoans who attended an FCC hearing here in September 2007 to air their opposition to the FCC firsthand. The undemocratic and dysfunctional FCC ignores such widespread sentiment at its peril.

The FCC's "slight" revision of the rule is so loophole-laden that it would leave the rule practically eviscerated. Moreover, the newspaper industry, by its own assessment and despite recent downturns, is not "dying" but rather is hugely profitable and will be for the foreseeable future.

Worse, the FCC stands accused of preferential treatment when it recently awarded the Chicago-based Tribune media colossus a controversial series of waivers which lets the Tribune keep its extant cross-ownership holdings. WGN-AM and WGN-TV also received unprecedented permanent waivers. Without these controversial waivers, the Tribune would be forced to divest media properties as a part of its sale to billionaire Sam Zell.

Instead, the FCC's sweetheart deal has now opened the door to the following: no meaningful voice for the Tribune's new majority owners -- its workers -- and other media employees elsewhere (though FCC policy states owners must exercise control), lower standards of journalism and reduced diversity of media voices in Chicago and throughout the country, and the continued plunder of the public interest and what's left of our democracy.

The FCC lost a media ownership rule rewrite attempted by former FCC chair Michael Powell -- lost in Congress, in the courts, and in the court of public opinion. CMA hopes that we see a repeat of the 2003 fight, with an even more resounding victory for the public.

At a minimum, CMA calls for Congressional action to override the FCC, including the use of a "Resolution of Disapproval" to stop the agency cold. (In 2003, the Senate did approve such a resolution.) CMA also hopes that relief on the issue can come again in the courts. Lastly, CMA calls for the stations thus emancipated to then be earmarked to concerns owned by women and ethnic and racial minorities, to raise those groups' otherwise dismal media ownership levels.

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