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2004-02-11

Fight to Block FCC Media Ownership Rules Goes to Court

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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will hear oral arguments today in the case of the Prometheus Radio Project vs. the Federal Communications Commission, a key lawsuit concerning media ownership laws. We speak with the program director of Prometheus standing outside of the courthouse in Philadelphia. [includes transcript]

Today in Philadelphia, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in a key lawsuit concerning media ownership laws in this country. The case is the Prometheus Radio Project vs. the Federal Communications Commission.

Promethues Radio Project is a Philadelphia-based advocacy group for low power radio stations.

Prometheus and a number of other groups including Media Alliance, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Center For Digital Democracy, Consumers Union, and the Consumer Federation of America, filed suit against the Federal Communications Commission in opposition to the broadcast media ownership rules passed by the FCC in June 2003.

On September 3 last year, the Third Circuit imposed a stay of the implementation of the new rules, and today oral arguments will be heard on the substantive aspects of the case.

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: Today in Philadelphia, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, will hear oral arguments in a key lawsuit concerning media ownership laws in this country. The case is the Prometheus Radio Project versus the Federal Radio Communications Commission. This is an advocacy group for low power radio stations. This and other groups, the media appliance Lyons, national council for Churches for Christ and the consumer federation of America filed suit against the FCC in opposition to the broadcast media ownership rules passed by the FCC last June. September 3, the third circuit imposed a stay on the implementation of the rules. Oral arguments will be heard on the substantive aspects of the case. Hannah Sassaman is us with, program director of the station. Welcome to Democracy Now!.

HANNAH SASSAMAN: Good morning, Amy, thanks a lot.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us where you are?

HANNAH SASSAMAN: I’m waiting at the federal courthouse at Sixth and Market, waiting to go inside. We are going inside the courtroom where we’re going to hear oral arguments in today’s case.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about the significance of the case?

HANNAH SASSAMAN: The case is incredibly significant because over the past year-and-a-half, over 2 million Americans have sent comments in to the FCC against what’s called the Biennial Review on Media Ownership. The Biennial Review is a set of new rules that would deregulate the entire broadcast media system allowing newspapers and broadcast interviews like television stations to cross over each other in distant markets like new York and Philadelphia, all over the country, allowing duopolies, allowing two television stations to be owned in towns. Millions of Americans and people across the world have agreed are not good for people’s abilities to have rights in their towns, for their abilities to talk freely with each other, and to get the news they need to participate fully in their civic lives. Can you talk about —

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about, well, what the FCC is considering today in a hearing is the issue of obscenity, going back to the Super Bowl. They’ll have CBS executives there, via come officials.

HANNAH SASSAMAN: The hearing today is not about obscenity. There’s two hears on the hill having to do with obscenity, one in the house and one in the senate. Really, what I have to say about that is while it is very interesting that Americans and very exciting that Americans are really starting to pay attention in many different ways into how their media system affects them and their families, affects their children, the indecency issue is a greater affect of the ownership but have all of the stations owned by a couple of people or corporations. It’s a race to the bottom when this has to do with what they’re broadcasting. Really, what we are focusing on is trying to make sure that first of all that these really horrible new ownership rules don’t go into play and all it is our mission is to bring new community radio and media outlets to all of the towns and cities across the country. Giving them an option where they can have their own media, with whatever content, whatever kinds of broadcasting they like, hopefully made by that community and for that community. That’s really what we’re focusing on here.

AMY GOODMAN: Hannah Sassaman I want to thank you for being with us, Program Director of the Prometheus Radio Project.

HANNAH SASSAMAN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Hannah Sassaman standing on line waiting to go into the FCC oral arguments in Philadelphia.

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