Media consolidation is why:
- local programming has shrunk and is shrinking.
- most political voices in our town come down from satellites.
- there are fewer independent voices; less diversity and authenticity.
- there's no local liberal talk station in this liberal town.
- Glenn Beck exists.
- the polar ice caps are melting.
It's in the conservative meme of "smaller government," and "deregulation," but media consolidation is more about profits and consolidating the wealth of the few than about local management, and diversity of ownership, and the dissemination of news.
It's because in a stunningly sneaky move to take the opposition by surprise, the Republican controlled Federal Communications Commission has hurried-up process for the rewriting media ownership rules.
They'll probably allow the big media companies to get even bigger. Again.
They need to do it- and fast- before the government goes to the Democrats, who are slightly less willing to hand over the the public airwaves to the magnates of megamedia.
The commission has been having public hearings around the country to solicit public input, but to most of us, these lengthy shindigs look like Shih Tzu & Shetland shows for decisions already made.
Late last Friday (the time of the week to announce something in Washington if you don't want anyone to hear it) the FCC announced it would hold its sixth and final hearing on media ownership in Seattle this Friday from 4-11p at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave.
Squawking that the hearings were called without adequate notice and the review process was being rushed, Rep. Jay Inslee, joined by such disparate congressional voices as Sens. Maria Cantwell, Byron Dorgan, (D-N.D), and Trent Lott, (R-Miss) pled for more notice and four more weeks of time to think about it.
They were ignored of course by the Republican chair, Kevin Martin who wants a vote by year's end.
Big broadcasting has now set its sights on trouncing two more rules: The prohibition of radio or television broadcasters from owning a daily newspaper in the same town, and the ban on a single company owning two television stations in the same market.
Media consolidation, going on for about a decade, now has favored such megolithic companies as Clear Channel which ended up owning more than a thousand radio stations, dominating the dial in some cities.
(In the Seattle/Tacoma market Clear Channel and CBS each own five; Sandusky Radio and Entercom each own four; and Bonneville owns three. In other words, over 2/3's of all local radio stations are owned by out of town corporations. the new rules would allow one of these companies to own a newspaper as well. Most cities the size of Seattle only have but one newspaper: it's easy to see how a single corporation could have a lock on a city's news distribution).
Most observers think Martin will propose to allow broadcasters to own newspapers in the largest markets, but with limits in smaller markets. He'll probably be joined by the other Republicans on the commission.
The cries in the darkness will come from the two Democrats, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who voted last time against the media rules. They criticized Martin for scheduling the Seattle hearing with only five days' notice.
(photo: fighting the fair fight from left, Jonathan Adelstein, and Michael Copps)
"Clearly, the rush is on to push media consolidation to a quick and ill-considered vote," they wrote in a joint statement. "This is outrageous and not how important media policy should be made."
We know it'll be tedious and exasperating, but we need every person
we can get to jam Town Hall Friday night, and voiuce your protest. The reason they scheduled
this in the sleazy way they did was to suppress the voices of the
people opposed to their giveaway of the public airwaves to private
The FCC hearing is scheduled 4 to 11 p at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave. More information at www.fcc.gov