White House disses Powell and abandons efforts to relax media rules

Tracy Van Slyke

From the New York Times this afternoon: The Bush administration has decided to abandon the effort by Michael K. Powell, the outgoing chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to relax the regulations that have prevented the nation's largest media companies from growing bigger and entering new markets, government officials and industry lawyers briefed about the decision said today. This decision makes it less likely that the Supreme Court will take up an appeal from big media companies and the FCC to overturn a sharp dismissal from a Philadelphia federal appeals court to relax these media rules. The media corps and the FCC wanted these regs to allow a single media corporation to own multiple TV stations and a newspaper in the same area, essentially ending local and community driven media programming and allowing corporations to hegemonize all news and information. The battle started in 2003 when the Republican-dominated FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to ease these decades-old ownership restrictions. In a shocking response (to them), over three million people contacted Congress and the FCC in protest. And in an unusual movement of unity brought many Republican and Democractic adversaries together to fight relaxing these rules. The regulators must now go back to the beginning and revise the rules. Media watchdog groups are now gearing up to fight whatever corporate-pandering rules the FCC devises and also are planning new campaigns for the year. Read Aaron Sarver's interview with Bob McChesney, founder of Free Press, for more information on what to expect in the upcoming media reform battle.

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Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.
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