Media reform groups urge open, comprehensive process in review of media ownership rules

Common Cause, Consumers Union, Center for Creative Voices in Media

Media Access Project, Media Alliance, Free Press

Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of America

Today, the Federal Communications Commission was not able to begin the process to revisit media ownership rules that a federal appeals court struck down in 2004.

Today’s impasse reportedly resulted from an inability of the Commissioners to come to a final agreement on the process for issuing that rulemaking.

It is vitally important that the FCC involve the public in a meaningful way in any revision of media ownership rules. The court faulted the FCC for ignoring the public last time. This time, the public not only must have an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules, they must be able to react to a specific proposal that tells them in what ways the FCC intends to change the rules.

The public must have enough time to comment on these rules, and they must have a hearing before the FCC. This agency must hold public hearings throughout the country, hearings at which all Commissioners are present, and which respectfully take into account the concerns of the citizens and families the FCC is supposed to serve.

The FCC also must address the rules in a comprehensive way. Ownership rules, for example, that permit one media company to own a newspaper and a TV station in one community are related to ownership rules that permit one company to own two TV stations in one community. They must be considered together because each of these rules has a significant impact on the diversity of voices, or lack of diversity, a community will have.

We call upon all the FCC’s Commissioners, and particularly FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, to avoid Michael Powell’s mistakes, mistakes that led the court to throw out the 2003 media ownership rules, and to approve an open, comprehensive, transparent process for any media ownership rule changes they will consider.

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