June 26, 2004

Big Blow to Big Media

Here is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence you could offer against the shameful betrayal of everything good being perpetrated by the shell-of-a-man-formerly-known-as-Ralph-Nader...Appointments to the federal judiciary, especially likely Supreme Court appointments within the next few years, is, as it was in 2000, reason enough to reject the candidacy of the shell-of-a-man-formerly-known-as-Ralph-Nader and to call it what it is...yes...a shameful betrayal of all that is good...

John Nichols, The Nation: In one of the most
significant setbacks for the Bush Administration's
campaign to rewrite regulations to favor big business,
the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in
Philadelphia rejected the rationale the FCC used to
ease media ownership limits and ordered the commission
to revisit the issue with an eye toward protecting,
rather than undermining, the public interest in
diverse ownership or local and national media.

Break the Bush Cabal Stranglehold on the "US
Mainstream News Media," Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)


http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0625-05.htm

Published on Friday, June 25, 2004 by The Nation
Big Blow to Big Media
by John Nichols

More than a year after the Federal Communications
Commission narrowly endorsed a radical rewrite of
media ownership laws in a manner that would have
strengthened the hand of media conglomerates, a US
appeals court has determined that the FCC went too
far.

In one of the most significant setbacks for the Bush
Administration's campaign to rewrite regulations to
favor big business, the US Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit in Philadelphia rejected the rationale
the FCC used to ease media ownership limits and
ordered the commission to revisit the issue with an
eye toward protecting, rather than undermining, the
public interest in diverse ownership or local and
national media.

The appeals court panel, which last year stayed
implementation of the rule changes, complained that
the FCC had relied on flawed reasoning and reached
contradictory conclusions to justify rule changes that
would have allowed the consolidation of media
ownership in local markets across the country. One of
the FCC approved rule changes would have allowed a
single corporation to own the daily newspaper, as many
as eight radio stations and as many as three
television stations in the same community.

"The court ruling affirmed what many of us have been
saying for a long time," explained US Representative
Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, one of the most ardent
Congressional critics of the rule changes. "Chairman
Powell's gift to media conglomerates was made without
basis in legitimate research. He cannot show that the
commission's decision was made in the public's best
interest. On the contrary, it threatens the ability of
the public to have its voice heard and to have access
to other diverse voices."

The court's 2-1 ruling requires the FCC to come up
with a research-based argument that some public good
will be served by allowing the development of a
one-size-fits-all media. That's going to be hard to
do, as the court rejected the industry-friendly
methodology the commission had used to justify the
rule changes. At the least, a new push to relax the
rules would take months, and perhaps years, to
complete.

And time may not be on the side of Powell or his
big-media allies.

With the presidential election approaching, the
appeals court decision would seem to assure that media
ownership regulations will not be loosened before this
fall's presidential vote. That raises the prospect
that big media's long campaign to relax the regulation
of ownership limits on the television, radio and
newspaper industries could be thwarted for years to
come. If President Bush, a prime proponent of the rule
changes, is defeated, Democrat John Kerry would be in
a position to create an FCC majority that supports
diversity in media ownership.

The commission is currently split 3-2, with three
Republicans supporting special-interest demands for
relaxation of ownership rules and two Democrats siding
with public-interest groups that oppose the lifting of
limits on media monopoly. If elected, Kerry could
select a Democrat to replace Powell as chairman and,
while past Democratic Presidents have often made bad
appointments to the FCC, unions that are close to
Kerry have been pressuring him to pick a new member
who would side with Democrats Michael Copps and
Jonathan Adelstein.

"This is a major victory in preventing a handful of
huge corporations from controlling what the American
people see, hear and read," declared US Representative
Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, a leading Congressional
advocate for media reform. "It also vindicates the
millions of Americans from across the political
spectrum who spoke out and contacted the FCC on this
issue. The law unequivocally stands with the public
values of localism, diversity and competition in the
media, and that's what the court maintained."

Before the FCC voted by a 3-2 margin on June 2, 2003,
to endorse the rule changes, groups ranging from
Common Cause and MoveOn.org to the National Rifle
Association and the Traditional Values Coalition
raised concerns about the determination of FCC chair
Michael Powell and his two Republican allies on the
commission to implement rule changes that would make
it dramatically easier for a handful of large media
corporations to control the vast majority of print and
broadcast communications at the local and national
levels. Groups representing print and broadcast
journalists, including the Newspaper Guild, the
National Association of Black Journalists and the
National Association of Hispanic Journalists, were
also outspoken in their criticism of the proposed rule
changes.

After the commission voted for them, public outcry led
to votes in the US House and Senate for different
measures to override some or all of the FCC decisions
regarding the rules. But pressure from the Bush
Administration, and moves by House Majority Leader Tom
DeLay (R-Texas) to block necessary votes, have so far
prevented the reconciliation of the House and Senate
stances.

By blocking Congressional action that could resolve
the issue, Bush and DeLay have placed themselves in
direct opposition to clearly expressed public
sentiments.

More than two million Americans have contacted the FCC
and members of Congress demanding retention of limits
on media monopoly at the local level and controls on
consolidation of broadcast media ownership nationally.
And they now have the courts on their side.

The court challenge to the FCC ruling, which was
brought by the Prometheus Radio Project in
Philadelphia, was considered a long shot initially, as
the courts have historically been slow to intervene in
such matters. But with strong support from the Media
Access Project, lawyers for the Prometheus Radio
Project and allied media-reform groups were able to
convince the judges in Philadelphia that the FCC had
endorsed rule changes that posed a genuine threat to
localism, diversity and competition--which the FCC is
supposed to protect.

"This outstanding decision comes at a time when
unprecedented debate on the role of media outlets in
Americans' lives is taking place," said Prometheus
Program Director Hannah Sassaman. "Thousands of
Americans are telling the Commission and everyone who
will listen that consolidation is bad for their
communities and families. It is of paramount
importance that the FCC use that testimony to inform
new ownership rules that will preserve and protect
America's diverse, local voices."

Will that happen? Congressional critics of the FCC
aren't placing much faith in the commission--at least
as it is currently composed.

That's why Sanders, Hinchey, US Senator Byron Dorgan
(D-North Dakota) and a bipartisan coalition of
media-reformers in both houses of Congress continue to
promote legislation that would permanently prevent the
FCC from writing rules that favor big media. "The
court decision is step one," says Sanders. "The
American people, however, will not be satisfied until
Congress has totally ended the very dangerous idea of
allowing more media consolidation. Now, it is time to
become proactive and to fight for legislation which
will allow for more localism, more diversity of
opinion and more competition in the media."

John Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent,
has covered progressive politics and activism in the
United States and abroad for more than a decade. He is
currently the editor of the editorial page of Madison,
Wisconsin's Capital Times. Nichols is the author of
two books: It's the Media, Stupid and Jews for
Buchanan.

Copyright 2004 The Nation

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Posted by richard at June 26, 2004 05:34 AM