WISCONSINREPORT.COM (11/19/07) - U.S. Senator Russ Feingold has growing concern over Federal Communications Commission encouragement to big business to own more and more radio and television stations. That practice, in many cases, takes away local control of news and programming aired on broadcast stations throughout the country. Senator Feingold supports Senator Dorgan’s Media Ownership Act to improve transparency in media ownership rulemaking. Feingold says he will push for passage of the Dorgan bill and will continue efforts to ensure diverse and open media. More at WisconsinReport.com.
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold has written Kevin Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), regarding the FCC’s proceeding with respect to media ownership rules.
“I have been fighting for years against the increasing consolidation of media ownership in this country," Feingold says.
"The 1996 Telecommunications Act, which I voted against, allowed for significant consolidation in radio ownership silencing many of the exceptional voices that are the strength of local radio," Feingold stated.
"In the decade since the law’s passage, we have seen small and independent media outlets replaced by corporate monoliths," Feingold explains.
"I have contacted FCC Chairman Kevin Martin with my concerns about the FCC’s failure to adequately address the harmful effects of media consolidation on local ownership, including minority-owned and women-owned broadcast stations," Senator Feingold said.
"I also strongly support Senator Dorgan’s Media Ownership Act to improve transparency in media ownership rulemaking. I will push for adoption of Senator Dorgan’s bill and continue my efforts to ensure diverse and open media,” Feingold continued.
Feingold's letter lays out his concerns and his support of S. 2332, the Media Ownership Act. Here are some excerpts from the Nov. 19, 2007 letter.
"I write to express my concern regarding the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC)
proceeding with respect to media ownership rules. Given the importance of these rules and the Commission's problematic proposals in the past, I am concerned that the Commission appears to again be rushing this proceeding with inadequate or selectively chosen information."
I am particularly concerned that the Commission has not sufficiently evaluated the impact of media consolidation on local programming, and may even be selectively collecting and releasing information to support its pre-conceived agenda."
"It is very troubling that just one year ago, the Commission admitted to deciding not to release two reports that raised questions about potential negative impacts from further media consolidation. The draft Local TV News Report concluded that increased local ownership of television stations is correlated with increases in the amount of
"on-location" news and the total amount of news in broadcasts."
According to the Inspector General's investigation into this matter, the then-Media Bureau Chief decided not to release the other report, the 2003 Radio Report, because he: "[was] not inclined to release this one unless the story can be told in a much more positive way. This is not the time to be stirring the "radio consolidation" pot... [Given that the reports in the series had been issued at uneven intervals in the past] It would hardly seem odd if we did not release one this year... particularly given that we just did a big radio order as part of the biennial. .. All in all this is a really bad time to release something like this. If we can change the focus and make it more positive... then perhaps we can do something like this again, but this will take more than just regurgitating last year's report with new numbers", Senator Feingold quoted from the findings of the Inspector General's investigation.
"The then-Media Bureau Chiefs express desire to only release "positive" information and to
"change the focus" to "make it more positive" throw the objectivity of FCC media ownership reports and proposals into doubt," Feingold wrote to the FCC Chairman.
"The FCC's website states that, "along with competition and diversity, promoting localism is a key goal of the Commission's media ownership rules," Feingold continued in his letter. "This vital goal should not be minimized or ignored in the rush to produce a ruling."
"Accordingly, I ask the FCC to, at a minimum,
complete the separate localism proceeding prior to making decisions on the current media ownership rules. This proceeding should provide ample opportunity for the public to commenton any conclusions or proposed rule changes," Senator Feingold told FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in his letter.
"While the Commission has commissioned some reports and held some hearings on media
ownership, there is no completed localism proceeding to inform the consideration of proposals in this area," Feingold wrote.
"In addition, the selective burying of reports raises questions about the objectivity of the FCC reports that were allowed to be published," Feingold told Martin in the letter.
"Moreover, the limited hearings that have been held have confirmed that other issues of public importance, including the lack of women-owned and minority-owned broadcast stations, deserve more careful attention from the Commission," Feingold continued in the letter.
"Keeping in mind the contentious media ownership proposal in 2003, I respectfully suggest the need for additional information gathering and opportunities for public comment before the Commission acts on this matter again," Feingold's letter to the FCC Chairman suggested.