FCC Proposal Could Allow Further Corporate Control of Media

In a move that could squelch the voices of an independent press, the Federal Communications Commission officially released a proposal today that would ease media ownership caps and allow companies to own newspapers, radio and television stations in the same area. The FCC is scheduled to vote June 2 on the proposal that would further allow large corporations to control the media and thwart independent voices such as Ms. magazine. “There will be absolutely no chance for women or people of color to own media outlets without the approval of five or six giants,” Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, an organization opposing the FCC’s proposal, told Ms.

Two FCC commissioners, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, have opposed the proposal. While they asked FCC Chair Michael Powell, who has led efforts to ease government regulation of the media, to conduct public hearings around the nation on the issue, he refused. Despite Powell’s refusal, the two Democratic commissioners conducted unofficial hearings during the past few months to alert the public to the proposed changes.

“We were really unhappy with the media coverage of the war and the anti-war movement, especially television coverage that seemed like cheerleading for the war effort and didn’t reflect reality,” Andrea Buffa, board member of Media Alliance, an organization that helped put together a hearing in San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “(US Secretary of State) Colin Powell was spearheading the war and his son Michael Powell at the FCC is calling for rule changes that could change many regulations that govern corporate media.”

The specifics of the proposal include a change in the media ownership cap to allow a single company to own TV stations that reach 45 percent of households in the US. The proposal also would rewrite two existing “cross-ownership” rules that would lift current restrictions that keep companies from owning a newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market or radio and TV stations in the same market. “We’re going to have a handful of people providing the news for the entire country,” US Rep. Lynn Woosley (D-CA) told the Chronicle. “We will be losing the diversity of intellect and ideas and opinions. We’ll be cutting off minority opinions and dissent, and it’s not what our founding fathers intended.”

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Ms. Magazine 1/8/03; SF Chronicle 5/12/03; New York Times 5/13/03; Associated Press 5/12/03

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