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2005-01-28

White House Won’t Contest Media Ownership Rules in Major Victory for Grassroots Media Activists

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Grassroots media activists won a major victory Thursday when the Bush administration announced it would not seek to overturn a court ruling that has blocked the Federal Communications Commission from implementing sweepings regulations that would allow for greater media consolidation. [includes rush transcript]

The FCC, led by outgoing chairman Michael Powell, had approved new regulations in 2003 that would have allowed giant media corporations to own as many as three television stations, eight radio stations and a cable operator, as well as a newspaper in a single city.

The FCC’s attempt to allow for greater media consolidation resulted in a massive grassroots organizing effort. The FCC received more than 750,000 comments on the issue — 99 percent of the comments opposed allowing for greater media consolidation.

Most of the country’s major media corporations had lobbied the FCC to approve the changes. The companies included Viacom (which owns CBS), NBC, News Corporation which owns Fox, the Tribune Company, Gannett and The New York Times Company.

In 2003, the Prometheus Radio Project of Philadelphia filed a lawsuit to block the implementation of the FCC rule changes. In June 2004 a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Prometheus.

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, this latest top story of the F.C.C. and the decision not to appeal the court ruling, can you explain it and talk about its significance?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I think it is extremely important in terms of the federal government saying that it’s not going to appeal the decision of the Philadelphia Appeals Court remanding everything back to the F.C.C. They had until January 31 to appeal. They didn’t. So, on the surface, it appears to be a very big victory for the progressive movement, the people’s movement that has been trying to stop the new rules. However, there is the possibility that one of the major media companies between now and the 31st will come in and make their own appeal trying to peel off one of the rules and then get federal government backing on their appeal. So, it is not completely certain that this is not going to go — or an attempt is not going to be made toward the Supreme Court. But if that doesn’t happen by Monday, then the F.C.C. has to go back to square one, start all over again, and hopefully the public pressure will get them to have at least public hearings before they begin to adopt new media ownership rules. So, it is a big victory for the movement that has sought to get more accountability by the F.C.C. And, of course, with the exit of Michael Powell, that means President Bush still has to name a new F.C.C. Chair and so right now, at least, the progressive movement has won a major victory.

AMY GOODMAN: Also this week marks the fifth anniversary of the F.C.C. making low-power FM a class, although the Congress has blocked a lot of it from being implemented. Low-power FM stations now beginning to grow up around the country.

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