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2004-01-22

Omnibus Spending Bill Provisions Pt. II: New Media Ownership Laws Raise TV Ownership Cap

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A second provision in the omnibus spending bill eases the limit on the number of television stations a company can own in a move that significantly aids Rupert Murdoch’s New Corp. which owns the Fox network and Viacom which owns the CBS network. [includes transcript]

The second provision of the omnibus spending bill we take a look at is one that eases limits on the number of television stations a company can own.

The provision increases the national TV ownership cap for networks from 35 percent to 39 percent. The move significantly aids Rupert Murdoch’s New Corp. which owns the Fox network and Viacom which owns the CBS network. Both would have been forced to sell off several stations if the ownership limits weren’t relaxed.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to another measure in the omnibus bill, and that has to do with the F.C.C. The second provision of the bill is the one that eases limits on the number of television stations that a company can own. We only have a minute. We are joined by Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. Jeff can you explain what that is very briefly?

JEFFREY CHESTER: This provision is a big Bush administration and GOP give away to two of the most powerful media companies and political allies. In the case of Rupert Murdoch, it allows Viacom CBS and Murdoch’s News Corp Fox to hold the number of stations they presently own. They would have been forced to sell if this provision hadn’t been worked out in a backroom deal by the White House. It’s not surprising that early this week, CBS refused to sell an ad to move-on.org in the Super Bowl that was going to be critical of the Bush administration. The Bush F.C.C. a few weeks ago allowed Rupert Murdoch to become even more politically powerful here in the United States by taking control of the US’s most powerful satellite service: Direct TV. So, a huge giveaway to these two big media giants. A blow in terms of media ownership and democracy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Jeff, any chance of amending that portion of the bill out, or does it look at this point that there is not much hope?

JEFFREY CHESTER: I don’t know if we can hold our feet to the fire of the Democrats or any well-meaning Republicans here. I mean, Senator Kerry has taken a lot of money from the media companies. His brother works for the big lobbying firm that represents Cable and Wireless companies. A lot of the other Democratic candidates are frankly silent on this issue. We have to rebuild a lot of energy if we are going to make this a key issue and put some new limits back in.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. Thanks for being with us.

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