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2003-06-02

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Robert McChesney, author of eight books on media and politics, discusses the the inner-workings of the FCC and the importance of media diversity.

Robert McChesney, author of eight books on media and politics, discusses the importance of media diversity and the inner-workings of the FCC.

Today, the FCC votes on decades-old rules governing ownership of newspapers, TV and radio stations.

Analysts say the vote to scrap the rules will unleash the largest wave of media consolidation in U.S. history.

The rules limit the number of TV stations a company can own; they prevent big networks from merging; and they prohibit companies from owning newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market.

Driving the review is FCC chair Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State General Powell. Powell strongly supported the AOL/Time-Warner merger. After the merger, his father’s stock options in the company skyrocketed from $6 million to nearly $10 million.

Powell is supported by the two other Republicans on the commission. The two Democratic Commissioners are opposed. The FCC is therefore expected to pass the rule revisions by a majority of one.

Major media conglomerates have been lobbying hard in favor of the new rules, corporations pressuring the FCC include:

*AOL Time Warner, which in addition to AOL and Time magazine owns HBO, CNN, and dozens of magazines

*General Electric, Disney and Viacom, which own NBC, ABC and CBS respectively

*Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns Fox News and many other outlets

But Powell has been reluctant to hear opinions from the public. When Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps called on the FCC to conduct public hearings on the issue, Powell refused. Copps went on to hold several public hearings on his own. Powell boycotted all but one — which he decided to attend only at the last minute as public pressure intensified. The FCC convened its only official hearing in Richmond, Virginia in February.

  • Robert McChesney, author of eight books on media and politics including Our Media, Not Theirs and Rich Media, Poor Democracy. He is also professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and host of the weekly talk show, Media Matters, on WILL-AM radio. McChesney recently wrote the article

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Robert McChesney


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