Columbia Law School yesterday held a public hearing on the Federal Communications Commission’s plans to loosen or scrap all remaining media ownership rules. The hearing was at the instigation of unions and media activists, originally organized by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Writers Guild of America, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Media Access Project and others.
FCC Chair Michael Powell originally didn’t plan to attend, but was forced to after public pressure mounted.
The six rules under review include:
*the ban on broadcasters owning television stations that reach more than 35 per cent of the country * the prohibition of mergers between the four largest TV networks
* and the prohibition from owning a newspaper and broadcast outlet in the same market.
If those rules are scrapped, a single CEO could theoretically own all of the largest media outlets in the country.
The event featured all-day panels where media activists, public interest advocates, representatives from think tanks and Hollywood guild members outnumbered industry reps like Viacom’s Dennis Swanson, Fox Entertainment Group’s Ellen Agress and David Poltrack of CBS.
- Reed Hundt, former Chairman of the FCC. As chairman of the FCC, Hundt presided over the first major overhaul of U.S. telecommunications policy in more than 60 years and helped negotiate the World Trade Organization Telecommunications agreement.
- Charles Lewis, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Public Integrity. He talks about research the center did investigating media corporations ties to congress and the FCC.
- Ellen Agress, Senior Vice President, Fox Entertainment Group
- James Winston, Executive Director and General Counsel for the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters.
- Robert McChesney, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author of “Rich Media, Poor Democracy.”
- Juan Gonzalez, co-host of Democray Now!, President, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and columnist for the NY Daily News.
- Amy Mitchell, Associate Director with the Project for Excellence in Journalism. Her organization has conducted several studies about the changes that have been taking place in the news media