In 2003, an unprecedented groundswell of popular opposition killed then-Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell's efforts to eliminate rules that limit the ability of media conglomerates to monopolize the media.
But, once again, media-industry lobbyists and their allies on the FCC are working to revise the rules on media ownership to allow a single corporation to own most, if not all, of the newspapers, radio and TV stations and Internet news and entertainment sites in your town. Kevin Martin is the current FCC Chairman and he's trying to sneak through a massive giveaway to Big Media before the Bush administration leaves office.
When Michael Powell tried this before he was beaten back by a democratic upsurge of grassroots' organizing on both the left and right. So now Martin is trying to make an end-run around democracy by pushing through a rule change he claims is "modest" but which was immediately challenged in a statement by the two Democrats on the FCC, Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein, as anything but insignificant.
"This is not to my mind a modest proposal," Copps said. "It is gift-wrapped to look like a modest proposal. It strikes me as immodest and opens the floodgates to a lot of deals." This may be why, as my colleague John Nichols wrote recently, Martin "is doing everything he can to prevent public input that would challenge his rush to have the commission radically rewrite media ownership rules before Christmas."
Watch this new YouTube video to see why the stakes are so high.
Martin has a voting majority on the five member panel but a few weeks ago his plan leaked out, the media and the blogosphere picked up the story and numerous protests were ignited. The media reform group, Free Press, with which The Nation has a tight relationship and which was a linchpin of the successful opposition to the FCC's attempted in 2003, began feverishly organizing around the issue.
And they listened...Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) recently introduced groundbreaking, bipartisan legislation that would force the FCC to give the public a real voice in this process, and would make the agency address the dismal state of female and minority ownership before changing any rules to unleash more media concentration.