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2003-05-22

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps Speaks at the Final Public Hearing Before FCC Overhauls Decades-Old Rules Governing Media Consolidation

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FCC Commissioner Michael Powell, son of Sec. of State Gen. Colin Powell, failed to attend the final hearing on new rules that analysts say will lead to the largest wave of corporate media consolidation in U.S. history

Last night was the final public hearing with FCC commissioners about the proposed overhaul of the rules governing media consolidation.

The FCC is expected to pass the rules on June 2nd by a majority of one. FCC chairman Michael Powell — son of Secretary of State General Powell — strongly backs the rule changes. He is supported by the two other republicans on the Commission, and opposed by the Commission’s two Democrats, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein.

The issue is not merely bureaucratic. Analysts say if FCC votes for the rule changes, it will unleash the largest wave of corporate media consolidation the US has ever seen. A single CEO could legally own the largest TV network, the largest radio conglomerate, the largest newspaper, and the largest Internet company in the country.

Corporate media conglomerates lobbying for the rule changes include AOL Time Warner, which in addition to AOL and Time magazine owns HBO, CNN, and dozens of magazines; General Electric, which owns NBC; Disney, which owns ABC, and Viacom, which owns CBS; and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns Fox News and many other outlets.

Consumer watchdogs, trade unions, and media activists have had a harder time making their voices heard. Powell has done everything he can to avoid holding public hearings on the issue. When Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps called on the FCC to conduct public hearings several months ago, Powell refused. Copps said he would hold hearings of his own, and in January, a coalition of trade unions and media activist groups held the first public hearing on the issue in New York City. Powell initially said he would not attend, but as public pressure mounted, he reversed course at the last minute. Another hearing at the University of Southern California was held in April — and Powell did not attend. The FCC convened its only official hearing in Richmond, Virginia in February.

The final hearing was held last night in Atlanta. Again, Powell and the other republican commissioners boycotted the hearing.

  • Michael Copps, FCC Commissioner, speaking at the final public hearing on proposed changes to the rules governing media consolidation, Atlanta, May 22, 2003.

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