United States Senate
Washington DC 20510
June 25, 2003
Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America urge you to cosponsor and ask the Senate leadership to schedule a vote before the August recess on S. 1046, the Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity, and Competition in Television Broadcast Service Act of 2003. This bill—which would ensure that our nation’s local media outlets remain rooted in their communities, and retain a diversity of viewpoints through independent ownership—was favorably reported by the Commerce Committee on June 19th with strong bipartisan support.
This legislation is desperately needed to prevent massive consolidation of the major competitive sources of news and information in communities across the country because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on June 2 to jettison most of our nation’s media ownership limits. Despite communications from more than 750,000 citizens in opposition to weakening media ownership rules, more filings than the Commission has ever received in a proceeding, the FCC decided to allow the nation’s largest broadcast networks to buy more local television stations nationwide, buy as many as three local television stations in some markets, and also purchase the monopoly newspaper in markets where they own TV stations.
S. 1046, which modifies significant portions of the FCC’s ruling, is needed to preserve separate ownership of the two key sources of local news and information that consumers rely upon—their local newspapers and local broadcast television stations—and to prevent national television networks from demanding that local TV broadcasters show network programming instead of programming preferred by the local community. Without enactment of this legislation, the new FCC rules would:
– Allow TV-newspaper mergers in approximately 190 media markets, in which about 98 percent of the people live;
– Enable TV companies to own two or even three stations in over 160 markets covering more than 95 percent of the population; and
– Eliminate consideration of any other public interest factors when reviewing mergers involving the properties described above.
Because such enormous potential consolidation of the media properties Americans rely upon to make political decisions is dangerous to our democracy, we urge you to support expeditious floor consideration of S. 1046, and urge the Senate leaders to guarantee a floor vote on the bill before Congress adjourns for the August recess.
Dr. Mark Cooper
Director of Advocacy and Public Policy Research
Consumer Federation of America