The Stop Media Monopoly Petition, a campaign to reverse the FCC’s decision to allow further monopolization of the media, already has nearly 200,000 signers, evidence that Americans don’t want a few big companies controlling their access to news and entertainment.

On June 2, disregarding a great public outcry, the Federal Communication Commission voted 3 to 2 to ease restrictions on media consolidation and control. The three Republican commissioners voted for the rule changes, while the two Democrats voted against the changes and spoke out strongly against them. The Communication Workers of America (CWA) issued a press release criticizing the FCC’s decision, saying it will have serious repercussions for democracy and the free press and free speech valued by Americans. “Fewer companies controlling the newspapers, radio stations and TV stations in a single community means fewer voices and fewer points of view will be heard,” the CWA said.

The CWA is particularly concerned about the rule change that allows a single company to own both a newspaper and a TV station in one community. “It is disgraceful that the Republican majority on the FCC bowed to corporate interests so completely,” said CWA President Morton Bahr. “They held only one public hearing, and that under pressure, yet commissioners met repeatedly with … the large media corporations who stand to make billions of dollars in the buying and selling of companies made possible by the June 2 vote.” Bahr also noted that the same companies that own the broadcast channels, radio stations and newspapers also own the top internet and cable channels. “That’s not diversity, that’s monopoly,” said Bahr. CWA represents 700,000 workers including 50,000 newspaper, wire service and broadcast employees.

Many groups, including MoveOn.org and Common Cause, organized millions of e-mails, letters and other protests against the rule changes before the FCC voted. So many people called and e-mailed the FCC on May 30 that the FCC voicemail system and web site went down. MoveOn, Common Cause and Free Press raised over $180,000 to pay for print and TV ads. Representatives of these groups were invited to debate the issue on cable news shows.

At the June 6 Take Back America Conference in Washington, D.C., in a workshop titled “Reversing the Right’s Hold On Media,” participants discussed how to fight back against the FCC decision. They noted the ruling would permit ultra-right media mogul Rupert Murdoch and radio conglomerate Clear Channel to increase their stronghold on all forms of the mass communications media. Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said, “We are going to change these decisions. The FCC is creating a new structure giving cable companies and telephone companies control of the internet. The first thing we have to do is fight back.”

Chester announced that the Senate Commerce Committee will convene a hearing on June 19 to review the FCC decision, providing an opportunity to reverse it. Before the FCC vote, 100 House members and 20 senators had asked the FCC not to change the rules. Congress has the power to overturn the rule changes. John Moyers, editor of TomPaine.com, told the Take Back America gathering the challenge is to involve the majority of people and not “preach to the choir.” Farai Chideya, founder of Popandpolitics.com, emphasized reaching out to people of color. “Millions of people must be motivated to contact their congressional representatives and make their voices heard,” she said.

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@hotmail.com

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