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House Committee Soundly Rejects FCC’s Weakening Of Media Ownership Rules

For immediate Release
July 16, 2003
Liz Rose (202) 462-6262

Commerce State Justice Appropriations Mark-Up Yields Victory for Grass Roots Effort Against Media Giantism
Statement by Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union

Washington, DC — Today the House Appropriations Committee soundly rejected the FCC’s weakening of the media ownership rules by effectively restoring the 35 percent limit on the national audience that stations owned by one broadcast network can reach. The Committee’s action, which prohibits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using its money to implement its proposed change in the national ownership cap, recognizes that citizens of all political persuasions are coming together to oppose the FCC’s recent actions allowing media giants to gain more control over important media outlets. Consumers Union and many groups on the political right and the left are jointly urging Congress to undo the damage the FCC did to localism, diversity and competition.
Local control of media is vital to democracy. For example, parents and families, unhappy with network television that promotes violence and offends their personal values, must be able to get their local broadcasters to air programming more suitable to community tastes. And newspapers must have incentives to editorialize and provide news coverage without influence from TV broadcasters about the ideas, values and political activities in their own community.
Unfortunately, our own government has undermined local control. The FCC has decided to let national television networks buy more local stations as well as the dominant — or only — newspaper in most communities in the country. The FCC is responding to desires of huge corporations for increased profits and is ignoring the need for communities to hear from voices that reflect the values and diverse perspectives of local residents.
We commend Reps. Obey, Wolf, Wamp, and Nethercutt for their strong bipartisan leadership on the House Appropriations Committee. Today’s vote combined with the efforts of Reps. Burr and Dingell on parallel legislation gives us enormous momentum going to the House floor with legislation that should be combined with Sens. Stevens and Hollings media ownership bill, which is ready for Senate Floor consideration. We are hopeful that Congress is finally prepared to do what the FCC refused to do: listen to citizens of all political persuasions, instead of media executives, and overturn the FCC rules that undermine competition, diversity and community control of the most important local news outlets.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumer. www.consumersunion.org