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2003-01-07

Fox, NBC, Viacom, Walt Disney Co. Urge the Government to Scrap All Remaining Media-Ownership Rules: A Debate Between the FCC and Media Analysts Robert Mcchesney and Jeff Chester On Media Consolidation

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Last week three of the nation’s four television networks, Fox, NBC and CBS’s parent company Viacom, joined forces to urge the federal government to scrap all remaining media-ownership rules.

It comes at a time that the Federal Communications Commission is preparing to fundamentally alter the nation’s communications and mass-media landscape by rewriting media ownership regulations.

If all of the changes being reviewed by the FCC are enacted as proposed, major telecommunications and media corporations will be less regulated, and more free to merge, than at any time in decades.

The networks say the regulations are no longer needed to spur competition among broadcasters and that the consolidation of television and radio stations had spurred more diversity of programming and local news, not less.

Opponents fear that the changes could lead to a few powerful conglomerates controlling the flow of electronic information, from programming of television and radio news and entertainment to control of the Internet.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a letter-writing campaign opposing media consolidation has flooded the FCC offices with nearly 1,700 comments on the proposed regulations.

The Federal Communications Commission, which is headed by Michael Powell, the son of Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, is expected to complete review of the regulations within a few months.

The FCC has announced only one public hearing in Richmond, Virginia, in February. Next week at Columbia University on Jan. 16, the Center for Digital Democracy and other consumer groups and other media groups will host a conference on media consolidation.

Guests:

  • Brendan Koerner, journalist who has covered the FCC and Michael Powell for Mother Jones, the Village Voice and other publications. His article on the FCC "Losing Signal" for Mother Jones won a Project Censored Award last year.
  • Ken Ferree, Chief of the Media Bureau of the FCC. Ferree oversees the review of broadcast ownership rules at the FCC.
  • Robert McChesney, author of eight books on media and politics, including Rich Media, Poor Democracy. He is also professor of Communications at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.
  • Mara Einstein, assistant professor of Media Studies at Queens College. Her study "Program Diversity and the Program Selection Process on Broadcast Network Television" was one of 10 studies cited by the FCC when it drafted its media ownership regulations.

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