FCC Votes To Relax Media Ownership Rules
Local Broadcasters & Some Congressmen Cry Foul
In a 9:30am presentation televised on both the WRAL NewsChannel and CSPAN, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to relax the rules for media ownership. The widely anticipated June 2 vote raised the ownership cap for television station owners to 45% from 35%, relaxed rules on cross-media ownership and the ownership of more than one television station in a market.
Congress has now called the group to defend its media ownership votes. Specifically Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) has requested the five Commissioners appear before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, June 4, 2003.
The three Republican FCC Commissioners, the majority, said that the current ownership cap is not necessary in raising it to 45%. They stated this change would help networks compete more effectively with cable networks. Broadcast owners across the country have said raising this cap would be the end of localism.
“Success will be judged by the rigorous demands of judicial review,” said Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, who voted in favor of relaxing the rules. She said that success would not be determined in the court of public opinion.
In a dissenting opinion Commissioner Michael Copp said, “The airwaves belong to the American people.” He cited the example of the relaxing of radio ownership a few years ago, using this as a case against doing the same for television. “Radio deregulation gives us a colorful and relevant message. With a 34% reduction in the number of radio station owners, competition in many towns became non-existent.”
Groups from as politically opposite spectrums as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have joined together in voicing disagreement with the vote. Several citizens attending the session began chanting, “Mass de-regulation of the mass communication is the end of democracy,” as the official vote was taken. A few of the protestors were escorted out by police.
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, one of the two dissenting votes said, “This is a sad day for me and for the country. The public stands everything to lose.” He likened the ownership of the spectra of television stations to electrical outlets in a house. He said that you can add as many electrical outlets as you like, but they still can only draw on the same amount of power.
“Our citizens want, deserve and demand a discussion of how our airwaves are being used,” said Copp.