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Obama, Kerry on FCC

“The FCC may soon consider changes in the media ownership rules that only help big media get bigger, but do nothing to make media more responsive to minority viewpoints and local communities,” write Senators Obama and Kerry in Politico.

“If the FCC chairman chooses to reopen media ownership rules, he must take into consideration the needs of local or minority communities.

“If this is done improperly, more radio stations, television stations and newspapers will fall into the hands of fewer owners and those owners are less likely to include minority firms. It means that fewer minority- and independently owned stations and newspapers will be able to contribute to the national dialogue.”

Footnote: When the FCC held hearings here in September, Newstips noted the Free Press study showing that Chicago has the lowest level of minority ownership among the nation’s 22 largest radio markets.

[MORE 11-12-07]

Obama and Kerry are cosponsors of legislation to halt the FCC’s rush to gut longstanding media ownership rules, Free Press reports.

The Media Ownership Act of 2007, sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-SD) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), would direct the FCC to hold hearings on the issue of localism — and create an independent minority and female ownership task force — before moving forward with any changes to media ownership limits.

Commented Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press:

“We are thrilled to see members from both sides of the aisle stand up for the public. This critical legislation will restore fairness and transparency in what has become a corrupt process at the FCC.

“In the rush to gut media ownership rules, the Commission has ignored the American people, neglected the media diversity crisis, and buried evidence that consolidation harms local communities. The Media Ownership Act would hold the FCC accountable for listening to the public and ensuring that the public airwaves reflect America’s diverse local communities.


“The American people overwhelmingly oppose any rule changes that would allow big companies to swallow up more of their local media. This bill is an important reminder from Congress that the FCC must answer to the public, not corporate interests.”

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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