Once again, all five FCC commissioners were invited. Once again, only two showed up.
It was the Democrats alone–commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein–who arrived at Hunter College in New York City Thursday to listen and to agree with a crowd of 350 citizens opposed to further consolidation of the media. Emotions ran high, as some waited for nearly four hours, until 10 PM, to have their chance at a microphone.
Earlier this month, a crowd of 500 showed up at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to express similar sentiments about the lack of independently owned radio and television outlets and newspapers. It was the first public meeting on media consolidation in which all five commissioners appeared, and only then, under pressure.
In cities like San Antonio and Milwaukee, hundreds more have camped out in the chilly predawn hours for a chance to voice their concerns–speaking passionately about what consolidation has done to stifle the creativity of independent musicians and artists in their communities.
In 2003 the FCC attempted to relax ownership rules further, allowing big media to gobble up still more radio and television stations.
“[Former FCC Chair] Michael Powell sat there in Washington and said, ‘People don’t care about ownership,'” recalled Copps, who opposed the rule changes then, and still does. “Well, let me tell you, they care. And they can get awfully proprietary about it, and awfully damn mad.”
Nearly 3 million complaints were sent in opposition to the FCC’s secret plans, which were crafted behind closed doors and did not allow for public comment.
“Citizens rose up, and it was a consumer victory in 2003,” said Copps. “But now we’re back at square one.”
Thursday’s meeting, organized by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and other groups, was timed to coincide with the release of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’s annual “Network Brownout Report,” which noted, among other findings, that in 2005 less than 1 percent of the news stories that aired on the three major networks were exclusively about Latinos or Latino-related issues.
“Every year it shows the same depressing result,” said New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, speaking of the research that also showed “a sharp increase” in crime coverage.
“We’re basically invisible, except when we’re criminals,” said Ivan Roman, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.