Monday, November 5, 2007

Battle of Seattle Redux?

Fittingly, the Final Battle in this round of the media ownership war will be held in the Pacific Northwest. I say "fittingly" because it was there that the 1999 Battle of Seattle galvanized opposition to globalization and led to the rise of IndyMedia. The FCC has announced that its last public hearing on changes to media ownership rules will be held in Seattle on Friday. In so doing, it gave exactly ONE WEEK'S NOTICE of the hearings. Nonetheless, opponents of its plan to lift the long-standing ban on cross-ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same city should be out in force. The short notice did not go unnoticed by the Seattle Times or the Democratic members who comprise a minority on the FCC.

The announcement drew immediate fire from opponents of the proposals, who charged the short notice is part of a plan by the commission's Republican majority to short-circuit public involvement and push major changes through before Christmas. "It shows there is a preordained outcome," FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, the two Democrats on the five-member board, said in a statement.

Times publisher Frank Blethen has been an outspoken critic of media ownershiop concentration, which is highly unusual for a newspaper owner. The American Journalism Review profiled him a few years back as "The Gadfly." Blethen was in the forefront of opposition to the FCC's 2003 attempt to roll back the cross-ownership ban, noted AJR.

Blethen says the public finally is getting fed up with this cynical media environment, which puts the news consumer dead last in the pecking order. "There's this level of arrogance that comes when these companies get so big, and so out of touch," he says. "I think that's important because they keep throwing fuel on the fire. They can't help themselves."
This should be interesting.

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