the last two days, powerbrokers in Congress once
again went behind closed doors, ignored the public
interest, and acted on behalf of giant media conglomerates
instead of democracy and the public interest.
the heroic efforts of many members of both the
House and Senate - both Democrat and Republican
- Congressional leadership and the White House
used tricky tactics and trickier legislation to
create the illusion of a partial FCC rollback
while serving up yet another give away to Big
this update, I want to tell you that NOW with
Bill Moyers will feature a one-hour edition on
the media this Friday, Nov. 28th. It is the only
in-depth, quality reporting you'll find on national
television about this crucial issue. Please check
your local listings for show time.
week Congress put a bogus FCC rollback provision
into a giant spending bill that will likely pass
as early as December 8th. The only provision of
the June 2nd FCC rule changes that was considered
during the negotiations was the "national broadcast
cap" - the percentage of American TV viewers who
may be reached by stations owned by one company.
For those of us trying to stop media monopoly,
this rule is much less important than the newspaper/TV/radio
cross ownership and television duopoly/triopoly
rules that were not even on the table in this
most recent negotiation.
than roll back the national TV cap to the pre-June
2nd 35% level, Congress changed it to 39% and
professes that it will be "permanent." This is
not a randomly selected number. It just so happens
that Viacom (owners of CBS) currently owns stations
reaching 38.8% of American households, and News
Corp (owners of Fox) owns stations reaching 37.8%.
Both purposely violated the old legal limit hoping
Congress or the FCC would change the rule. Had
the 35% limit stuck, they could well have been
forced to sell off some stations to come into
compliance. With a 39% limit, CBS and Fox can
keep their stations while NBC and ABC can substantially
expand holdings. Further, the new legislative
language allows any company to violate the rules
for up to two years without penalty--a loophole
that will invite precisely the same kind of chicanery
that resulted in Viacom and Fox getting a 4% increase
in the broadcast cap to accommodate their illegal
Congress hears the massive public outcry, addresses
a tiny portion of the disastrous FCC decision,
and custom tailors it so that it looks like a
concession while letting Big Media have their
real story is that in all the fuss over 35%, 39%,
or 45%, the far more significant rules have gone
through virtually unnoticed. All that holds them
back at present is the September decision by a
federal court to stay the rules pending a judicial
review of their integrity. Failing a heroic judicial
victory next year by attorneys with the Media
Access Project (MAP) who are challenging the FCC,
these rules will be implemented with very little
attention from Capitol Hill. We're hopeful that
next year's court case will be successful, but
we are still far from victory. (Of course we'll
keep you posted)
the end of the day, a superficial victory has
been won with the broadcast cap--even with the
39% sell-out. The White House was forced to back
down to public pressure, which it has done on
very few issues. Although we shouldn't be naive.
They are trying to stick us with corporate welfare
in the name of public service, gambling we won't
be smart enough to figure it out. But they've
given us a foot in the door. It is our job now
to force it all the way open. Now we must refocus
the debate on the impact of permitting cross-ownership--effectively
the creation of near-monopoly media control in
every city in America. This is the 800-pound gorilla
lurking in the corner as Congress debates relatively
small changes in broadcast ownership.
can we do now?
now, the most important work is to spread the
word - to our friends, colleagues, families -
that a democratic, diverse and skeptical media
is an issue worth fighting for. Today the number
of people who will take action - make a call,
sign a petition, write a letter - is in the hundreds
of thousands. With your help we can make it millions.
us sign up more E-Activists by sending this link
to everyone you know: http://www.mediareform.net/mailinglist.php
We send out action alerts occasionally, (not frequently)
and it's easy to unsubscribe.
January, we will continue to press the Senate
on the issue, building more cosponsors for Senate
Bill 1046 (a permanent nearly-total rollback of
all the rules). In the House, a coalition of supporters
will attempt to push for a vote on the "resolution
of disapproval" already passed by the Senate.
Should they succeed, all of the FCC rules will
be rolled back and a major milestone will be reached.
leadership in the House blocked that vote this
fall, despite a letter to the Speaker requesting
a vote that was signed by 205 Members, including
11 Republicans. In 2004, the House will launch
its own "resolution of disapproval" and attempt
to force a vote using a discharge petition. This
is not the same thing as the letter with 205 signatures.
This is a formal, procedural document, which not
only calls for a vote on the House resolution
but would force a vote if it collected 218 signatures.
We begin gathering names from scratch in January,
and we'll only win with your active participation.
Congress and the White House turned a deaf ear
to the last six months of public outrage over
media consolidation--ceding only a weak legislative
compromise that favors the broadcasters--the situation
is ripe for a knock-down, drag-out fight. Everything
political is volatile in an election year, and
media reform is among the hottest issues in 2004.
your continued participation - more phone calls
to legislators, more petitions, more letters to
editors, more organizing in your community, more
educating in the groups you belong to - and a
growing number of Americans who understand the
importance of a democratic and diverse media,
we will win this fight.
enjoy your holiday, spread the word about the
exploding movement to build a better media, and
remember the words of Margaret Mead:
doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed
citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the
only thing that ever has."
Silver Free Press
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Posted: November 28, 2003