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FCC Hearing In Chicago

Community and media activists across the city are mobilizing for Federal Communications Commission hearings September 20 at Operation PUSH on proposals to allow greater media consolidation.

[UPDATE 9-25-07: Audio and video clips from the hearing are being posted at stopbigmedia.com]

FCC proposals to lift restrictions on cross-ownership of media outlets would further weaken local coverage and minority ownership, opponents argue. And with Chicago falling far short of other large cities in minority media ownership, that issue will be front and center at next week’s hearing, they say.

Community groups are holding prep sessions for next week’s hearing in coming days, including the West Side chapter of the NAACP, Illinois PIRG, Chicago Media Action, Radio Arte, and We The People Media, publishers of Residents Journal (schedule below).

The FCC proposals are “outrageous,” said Brian Imus of Illinois PIRG. The Commission “should be protecting local control of media, because it’s so important to democracy and the flow of ideas.”

Karl Brinsen of the West Side NAACP chapter points out that radio conglomerate Clear Channel owns four of Chicago’s major black-oriented radio stations and last year signed an agreement to lease one of its frequencies to WVON-AM, Chicago’s only black-owned radio station.

He questions the negative images emphasized in youth music promoted by absentee owners, while local hip-hop artists with positive messages toil in obscurity. “It’s a big issue – how local conscious artists don’t get an opportunity to have airplay,” Brinsen said.

Chicago has the lowest level of minority ownership among the nation’s 22 largest radio markets, according to the StopBigMedia.com coalition led by the Free Press and including major consumer, civil rights and labor organizations. Of the nation’s ten largest radio markets, Chicago is the only one with minority ownership in the single digits, according to the group.

This is the second round for Republican commissioners on the FCC pushing rule changes to ease media consolidation. After rules were passed in 2003, a public uproar led Congress to vote against the changes, and a federal court required the Commission to seek public input.

FCC staff studies have shown that easing restrictions on media consolidation has led to reduced local news coverage, according to Mitchell Szczepanczyk of Chicago Media Action.

Prep sessions for people interested in testifying are being held:

Sunday, September 16, 7 p.m. at Chicago Media Action, 3411 W. Diversy

Monday, September 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the West Side NAACP, 3559 W. Arthington

Tuesday, September 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Illinois PIRG, 407 S. Dearborn

Wednesday, September 19 at 4 p.m. at Charles Hayes Family Center (We The People Media), 4859 S. Wabash

Wednesday, September 19 at 6 p.m. in Spanish at Radio Arte, 1401 W. 18th.

The Future of Music Coalition and Chicago Independent Radio Project hold at “Rock The Media” party Wednesday, September 19, starting 8 p.m. at Delilah’s 2771 N. Lincoln.

The FCC hearing, the fourth of six being held across the country, is scheduled for September 20, 4 to 11 p.m. at Operation Push, 930 E. 50th.

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