The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will vote June 2 on rules governing media ownership, allowing further consolidation and control by the nation’s largest media corporations.

Advocacy groups such as the Center for Digital Democracy and nearly 300 leading academics have written the FCC calling for broader public debate on the impact the change would have on what news and information Americans will see and hear. Republican Sens. Wayne Allard (Colo.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Susan Collins (Maine) urged the FCC to justify how any changes will promote diversity, competition and localism, goals the FCC is supposed to promote.

The five-member commission is composed of three Republicans including its chairman, Michael Powell (son of Secretary of State Colin Powell), and two Democrats. After FCC hearings in several cities on the effects of the proposed rule changes, one of the Democratic members, Michael Copps, spoke out in alarm, saying, “There has already been a tremendous amount of consolidation and it has had some severe consequences. Fewer cities have two newspapers. Artists and musicians find it more difficult to get on the airways and media outlets are increasingly failing to respond to community concerns.”

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibited companies from owning multiple TV stations that would reach more than 35 percent of the national audience. Now Republican FCC members want to raise the limit to 45 percent. The major TV networks want no cap whatsoever. Independent programmers and affiliated stations are fearful of going out of business or being gobbled up. Currently an FCC rule prohibits a radio or TV company from owning or controlling a daily newspaper in the same service area (“newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership”), but the Republicans on the FCC want to eliminate this rule. Other changes would relax the rules on the number of joint ownerships of TV and radio stations in a market area and on local TV “duopolies” – a network owning two TV stations in a local area.

“The major networks are owned by huge international conglomerates”, said media advocate Sasha Costanza-Chock.

He pointed out that ABC is owned by Walt Disney Co., which owns the Disney Channel, ESPN, theme parks, MGM film studios, 720 Disney stores, five magazines, four newspapers and much more.

CBS belongs to Viacom which owns MTV, Paramount film studios, United Cinemas International, Blockbuster video rental stores, Infinity Outdoor (the world’s largest advertising company), 180 U.S. radio stations and much more.

CNN is owned by AOL Time Warner. Time Warner is the largest media company, comprised of many broadcasting, movie and publishing companies.

FOX TV (35 stations) FOX News, FOX Sports, National Geographic TV are all part of News Corporation which owns eight publishing companies, 20th Century Fox TV film studio and TV stations and newspapers in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

NBC is owned by General Electric Corp.

Clear Channel and Viacom now control 42 percent of U.S. radio stations and 45 percent of the revenues.

“The American public must speak up for its own interest, the right to uncensored information and news,” said Costanza-Chock. Write to the FCC at 445 12th St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20554.

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@earthlink.net

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