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Consumer Groups Urge Congress to Roll Back FCC Media Deregulation

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Mark Cooper, CFA 301-384-2204
Liz Rose, Consumers Union 202-462-6262


WASHINGTON -Today, fifty-five national and state organizations called upon Congress to support legislation that would rollback the Federal Communications Commission’s recent deregulation of the nation’s media markets. The letter also stressed the importance of Congressional action before the upcoming August recess.
The groups urged Senators to add their names to the list of more than 40 who have already co-sponsored S.1046, the “Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity and Competition in Television Broadcast Service Act of 2003”, to ensure that the bill reaches the Senate floor as quickly as possible. They also called on the members of the House Appropriations Committee to stop the FCC from implementing its new rules in their mark-up of the FCC appropriations bill.
“This letter sends a strong signal to Congress that average Americans support legislation that will prevent large media conglomerates from dominating local sources of news and information,” said Gene Kimmelman, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Consumers Union.
“Despite the recent decision of the National Association of Broadcasters to make a power play and switch sides in this debate, the overwhelming majority of Americans support media policy that ensures that our nation’s local media outlets remain rooted in their communities,” adds Mark Cooper, Director of Research, Consumer Federation of America. “Legislation like S. 1046 is needed to preserve independent news voices so critical to our democracy.”
The Full text of the letter is attached below:
July 15, 2003
Re: Support localism, diversity in media
Dear Representative:
The undersigned fifty five groups representing national and state consumer, low income and civil rights organizations nationwide, urge you to support legislation equivalent to S. 1046, the “Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity and Competition in Television Broadcast Service Act of 2003” as amended. This bill introduced by Senators Stevens and Hollings and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of forty Senators is important legislation that will preserve diversity and competition in the nation’s media markets.
On June 19, the Senate Commerce Committee added several important additional protections to the bill including a reversal of the recent FCC rule permitting TV/newspaper cross ownership.
As you are aware, the FCC recently promulgated new rules that would largely deregulate the nation’s media markets. This clear ends-oriented decision is directed at helping the largest media companies at the expense of localism and diversity.
Without this legislation, and as a result of the FCC action, mergers between TV stations and newspapers will be allowed in over 190 media markets representing 98 percent of the American population. S. 1046 would preserve the rule that prohibits TV stations from owning newspapers in the same media market with a waiver process for small markets where it is shown to be in the public interest.
Under the new FCC rules, broadcasters are permitted to own three local stations in a market one quarter of the nation and two commonly owned stations in the same market might exist in another 70 percent of the country. This allows the major networks to exert undue influence over local independent broadcast stations. S. 1046 would maintain the current rule that prohibits ownership of three TV stations and allows broadcasters to own two TV stations in approximately 60 percent of the country.
Most alarming is the fact that, under the FCC’s new rules all of these mergers will be allowed without any opportunity for public interest review or challenge. By eliminating this review process, the FCC has effectively wiped-out the only safeguards the Commission had in place to protect the public.
S. 1046 would roll back the FCC’s order and protect independent broadcast and newspaper voices. Please support legislation in the House similar to S. 1046.
Alabama Watch
Arizona Consumers Council
Center for Public Interest Law (CA)
Chicago Consumer Coalition
Citizen Action of New York
Citizen Action/Illinois
Cleveland Consumer Action
Coalition for Consumers Rights (IL)
Colorado PIRG
Columbia Consumer Education Council (SC)
Consumer Action (CA)
Consumer Assistance Council (MA)
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Federation of California
Consumers For Auto Reliability & Safety (CA)
Consumer Fraud Watch (FL)
Consumers League of New Jersey
Consumers Union
Democratic Processes Center (AZ)
Empire State Consumer Association
Florida Consumer Action Network
Florida PIRG
Georgia PIRG
Harlem Consumer Education Council (NY)
Illinois PIRG
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
Massachusetts Consumers’ Coalition
Michigan Consumer Federation
New Jersey Citizen Action
Niagra Frontier Consumer Association (NY)
North Carolina Consumers Council
North Carolina Justice and Community Development Center
Oregon PIRG
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (CA)
Public Interest Research Group in Michigan
Rhode Island PIRG
Texas Consumer Association
Texas PIRG
The Consumer Alliance (MI)
The Consumers’ Voice (IL)
US Action
Utility Consumer Action Network (CA)
Victim’s Committee to Recall Defective Vehicles (OK)
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
Wisconsin Consumers League