The American people have already changed the character of the debate over media consolidation and monopoly. Now, they may well be on the verge of winning a historically unprecedented victory in Congress. Many thought the FCC's 3-2 vote on June 2 permitting media conglomerates to own more TV stations in every market and nationally, as well as permitting the same firm to own multiple TV stations, the daily newspaper, and multiple radio stations in the same community -- the dreaded cross-ownership -- settled the matter.
Now it appears dissenting FCC members Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein hit the nail on the head when they said the June 2 vote was so deeply absurd and corrupt -- it was payback time for the huge media conglomerates that traditionally have their way with regulators -- that it would provoke an onslaught of public outrage that would not recede until the FCC's changes were overturned.
How much public outrage? It is arguable that more Americans want to see Osama bin Laden's bust enshrined on Mount Rushmore than wish to allow fewer and fewer media companies the right to gobble up what remains of our media system.
An absurd statement, you say? Well consider this. When FCC Chairman Michael Powell refused to hold more than one official public hearing on whether to relax media ownership rules this winter and spring, he urged Americans to send him, the other commissioners, and members of Congress their thoughts via post, telephone and email. According to the FCC's Adelstein nearly two million people have done so. And by the FCC's own calculations, over 99.9 percent of these citizens demand that the FCC keep the existing media ownership rules, or tighten them.
Congress got the message that Powell and his fellow Republican pranksters on the FCC somehow missed as they were polishing off their resumes for their post-FCC careers in industry. In three Senate Commerce committee hearings chaired by John McCain (Rep., AZ) since June 2, the FCC has been attacked mercilessly and most of the rules overturned. Now there is legislation in both the Senate and the House to throw out what the FCC hath wrought. Senator Byron Dorgan (De., N.D.) is considering using the Congressional Review Act to have the Senate toss out the FCC's rules relaxation.
As we go to press, the situation is white hot on Capitol Hill, and may well be settled before the end of July. The corporate media lobbies have been reduced to depending on a few tried and true corrupt leaders, most notably Billy Tauzin and Tom DeLay, to carry their water. Even Karl Rove and the Bush administration, which absolutely adores letting Clear Channel and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation own more media, are keeping a low public profile on this topic, because they know that with leading independent media owners, the NRA, William Safire, and the much of the Christian right opposing the FCC -- heck, as we said, just about everyone -- this is political dynamite.
And that is why the people may well win this one. What is crucial is for Americans to flood their members of Congress with telephone calls, letters and emails in the next two weeks telling them to junk the FCC media rules changes. For easily accessible information on how to do that, go to www.mediareform.net/stopthefcc. If supportive members hear from enough people, it will strengthen their backbones; if those on the other side hear from many people, too, it may help them change their minds or at least that it is not worth sacrificing their political careers to enhance Mel Karmazin's and Rupert Murdoch's net worth.
ACTIVIST NOTE:Call your Congressional representatives and demand that they support a rollback of the FCC decision. One phone call from a constituent is more effective than scores of email petitions.
Click here and follow the easy steps for more information.(Don't worry, you don't need to know your Senators' or Rep's names, only your zipcode.)
With Robert W. McChesney