Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Salvos from left, right, and center

Now that a few days have passed since the New York Times revealed FCC Chair Kevin Martin's plan to push through by year's end a vote on lifting the long-standing ban on cross-ownership of a daily newspaper and a television station in the same city, the political fallout has started to descend. Predictably, the left-wing Nation magazine warns that the "FCC Promotes Media Monopolies" in its Act Now! blog.

FCC Commissioner Martin's latest attempt to curb as much diversity and democracy from the nation's media as possible is both a mogul's dream and a citizen's nightmare.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), on the other hand, lauded research studies done for or by the FCC as they "support the case for reforming outmoded ownership restrictions that only apply to local broadcast stations."

The trade association notes that the Commission's studies generally demonstrate the lack of harm, and the benefits that would be gained, from allowing local broadcasters to adopt more economically viable ownership structures. In particular, NAB points out, the studies show that the cross-ownership of broadcast outlets with newspapers actually promote the Commission's traditional goals of competition, diversity and localism.

Has everybody forgotten last summer's revelations made by Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who produced not one but two studies that had been suppressed by the FCC because they did not support the FCC's deregulationist agenda? No wonder the NAB likes the FCC's ownership studies, because it seems they only release the ones that support lifting the cross-ownership ban.

Finally, Barack Obama lambasted Martin on the campaign trail for rushing through the deregulation bid in the dying months of the Bush administration. Can it be? Will media ownership finally thrust into the national spotlight and even become . . . dare we dream . . . AN ELECTON ISSUE!!! Well, reading a little bit further in the campaign trail story, it appears Obama may just be playing to his base.

In a letter sent Monday to Martin, Obama called the accelerated timeline proposed by the chairman "irresponsible," saying the FCC had failed to take steps to encourage greater involvement in media ownership by minority and local interest groups. "I object to the agency moving forward to allow greater consolidation in the media market without first fully understanding how that would limit opportunities for minority, small business, and women-owned firms," said Obama.

In other words, politics as usual. Grrrr!

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