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Resolution calls on FCC to hold public hearings in Philadelphia

Resolution calls on FCC to hold public hearings in Philadelphia

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, October 19, 2006
For More Information:
Beth McConnell – office (215) 732-3747
Joel Kelsey – (716)622-1606
PHILADELPHIA – Consumer, civic, labor and community groups joined Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown in support of a resolution that urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to weaken media ownership rules, but instead encourage localism and diversity in media markets. The resolution passed unanimously.
Ownership rules exist to ensure that diverse viewpoints and independent voices are heard throughout local media markets. These rules restrict how many newspapers, radio stations and television stations can be owned by any one entity. The FCC is currently considering lifting ownership caps, which would allow the largest media companies to own even more radio and television stations, as well as major daily local newspapers.
Among the rules in danger are those that stop any one company from owning more than one local television broadcast station in a most media markets, as well as cross-ownership rules that prohibit one company from owning both a large share of the major broadcast stations and the major daily newspaper. If successful, the FCC’s rules would allow one company to own three television stations, eight radio stations and the major newspaper in a single market.
Over the past decade, media consolidation has led to a decline in minority ownership of media outlets, a lack of local news coverage and homogenization of the news content offered via broadcasted news channels. Supporters of Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown’s resolution pointed to a recent study by Free Press that shows that while women and minorities comprise 51 percent and 33 percent of the entire U.S. population respectively, each group owns less than 5 percent of all broadcast stations. The groups also pointed to a study authored by FCC staff but suppressed by agency leadership that showed local ownership of media outlets increased coverage of local issues.
Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown’s resolution urges the FCC to reject any proposals to weaken media ownership limits and to hold honest and fair public hearings in Philadelphia. The resolution also asks the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to use its authority to block any decision by the FCC that is not in the public interest, should the FCC ignore public opposition to increased media consolidation.
Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown and the groups warned that allowing a handful of companies to own too many media outlets strips newsrooms of local staff, creating a negative affect on the quality of news, arts and cultural programming and democratic discourse.
The groups reminded the public that the FCC is currently accepting public comment, and individuals can visit www.pennpirg.org/mediaownership or www.hearusnow.org to submit their comments.
“Allowing big media companies to gobble up even more newspapers, television and radio stations threatens the independence and survival of local media, as well as the health of the communities they serve. We don’t want the FCC to do to our local media what Wal-Mart has done to our neighborhood stores,” said Beth McConnell, Director of the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PennPIRG Education Fund).
“The research is clear – local ownership means more local coverage and more diversity in our media,” said Joel Kelsey of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports. “Weakening media ownership rules gives distant media conglomerates even more control over what we see, hear and read.”
“Councilwoman Reynolds Brown is doing the right thing for the thousands of Philadelphians, and millions of Americans, who have spoken out against media consolidation since 2003,” said Hannah Sassaman, program director at the Prometheus Radio Project, which successfully sued the FCC in 2003, the last time they tried to consolidate America’s media systems, and froze their implementation of the rules. “Community radio activists will fight at all levels, from our local city council to the Federal Communications Commission, to win back access to our airwaves.”
Amy Johnson of Media Tank said, “We are pleased to see the City of Philadelphia taking such an important stand on the issue of media ownership and consolidation. We hope that the FCC and Congress take this public statement as a serious message that people are paying close attention and want to be listened to and involved with creating a media system that meets the needs of the public.”
“Our nation’s airwaves are a public trust. Maintaining a license for broadcast spectrum is a privilege, not a right,” said Jim Haigh of the Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association. “Community interests take precedent over pure profit. Monopolistic media concentration will further transform our airwaves from a vital public resource into an exclusive tool for a handful of corporations. This hammer will smash competition and muzzle local voices.”
Robert Christian, Editor and Publisher to Philadelphia’s Weekly Press and University City Review added, “An independent, and independently owned, media is essential to preserving and extending freedom in the market place of ideas.”
Deborah Rudman from Termite TV said, “It is essential to the future of our country’s culture and freedom to support and promote diverse localized media. Further consolidation of media ownership is a stranglehold on the voice of the people and endangers the strength of our communities. The power of this medium cannot be underestimated in its influence on our future and its integrity should be upheld in the public interest. Termite TV supports the resolution that the City Council of Philadelphia urges the Federal Communications Commission to hold fair public hearings on its current media ownership deregulation proceeding in our city.”
“The media should be public trusts, but large media conglomerates run them like any other business, catering to their advertisers and ignoring the needs of the community. In 2001, my frustration with the blandness and bias of the mass media led me to create my own newspaper. Since then, I’ve watched as control of what the public knows continues to be bought up by small handful of multinational companies. The FCC is obligated to listen to the peoples’ concerns before handing over control of what we see and hear,” said Sam Schwartz formerly of the Philadelphia Independent.
The wide array of community, media reform and advocacy groups that support the resolution include:
Consumers Union
Media Tank
Prometheus Radio Project
Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association (MACPA)
International Action Center (IAC)
Sam (Née Matt) Schwartz, former director of the Philadelphia Independent
Philadelphia Community Access Coalition (PCAC)
Jobs with Justice
Neighborhood Networks
Termite TV
Center for Creative Activities
Democracy Now Advocates
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)