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Wednesday, Jul 21, 2004, 1:33 pm

Debate Over Media Consolidation Continues….

By Emily Udell
At 6 p.m. this evening the fourth of six Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearings on localism in the media will commence in Monterey, CA. These hearings allow Americans an opportunity to voice opinions on the state of TV and radio in their communities and to offer their 2 cents (or more) on the trend toward consolidation of broadcast and print media ownership.

On Monday in the San Francisco Chronicle FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (one of two Democrats on the five-member commission) made an impassioned plea for locals to participate in the Monterey hearing, and for all Americans to get involved in the fight against consolidation, which has posed a serious threat to localism and diversity in media.

This feels weird--a government official entreating the public for grassroots action against the decisions of his own commission. But of course Commissioner Copps is right, not only because of the fact that we the public actually own, for example, the airwaves, and media outlets only lease them from us, but because public outcry and grassroots activism against the ownership rules have actually made a difference.

Let's take a moment for a media consolidation recap:

-June 2, 2003: FCC raises the cap on media ownership, giving one company to right to own 3 TV stations, 8 radio stations, and the major daily newspaper in one market
-September 3, 2003: 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenged by the Prometheus Radio Project and the Media Access Project, grants a stay on the regulations
-June 21, 2004: U.S. Senate votes to repeal the FCC rules
-June 24, 2004: 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocks the FCC from implementing the change in ownership caps (see, for example, Salon.com article)

Indeed some major victories have been achieved, but Americans need stay on the ball--fight to keep ground already won and gain more until the media and the FCC truly address the needs of people and not corporations.

In his article, Commissioner Copps notes that more than 2.3 million people contacted the FCC about this issue, an unprecedented number. I remember one of the two FCC commissioners who attended the National Conference on Media Reform last November (Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein) joked during a speech that nobody knew what the FCC was before the June 2nd ruling. (I can also never forget when Commissioner Adelstein took to the stage with Lester Chambers and Billy Bragg at the Conference to jam on the harmonica.)

Finally, an easy action step: Keep apprised of media consolidation news and take action on these issues (by signing a petition for a localism hearing in your state, for example) by visiting the Free Press Web site.

Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show “Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.

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