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2003-05-20

Will Changes in the Nation’s Media Ownership Rules Mark "the Beginning of the End of Our Democracy"?

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A debate between the publisher of the Seattle Times and a Vice President at the Tribune Co. which owns 15 newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and Newsday as well as over 25 television stations.

Sen. Russ Feingold yesterday called on the Federal Communications Commission’s chairman to postpone a vote on loosening the rules on media ownership.

But FCC Chairman Michael Powell turned down a similar request from the two democratic FCC commissioners last week.

The FCC is poised to vote on the proposal to relax the rules on June 2nd.

The rules have not even been made public. Still, some things are known about the upcoming vote.

Under the expected changes, for the first time ever broadcasters will be allowed to own television stations that reach more than 35 per cent of the country. They will be allowed to own a newspaper and broadcast outlet in the same market. And the four largest TV networks will be free to merge.

That means that a single CEO could theoretically own all of the largest media outlets in the country.

Analysts say if the revised rules are passed, the US will see a wave of media mergers and consolidation that is unprecedented in the country?s history.

Major media conglomerates such as AOL Time Warner, General Electric, Disney and Viacom, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. are all lobbying for the changes.

Today, we continue our series on the FCC, with a debate looking at the impact on the newspaper industry.

  • Frank Blethen, publisher of the Seattle Times and five other papers in Washington and Maine. He has been a vocal opponent of the proposed FCC changes to the media ownership regulations.
  • Shaun Sheehan, Vice President and lobbyist of the Tribune Co. which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and 12 other papers and over 25 television stations. The Tribune has backed rewriting the media ownership regulations.

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