Cross-ownership, Diversity Debated At FCC Hearing
September 21, 2007 at 10:50 AM (PT)
Cross-ownership and ownership diversity were the issues of the night at THURSDAY's FCC media ownership hearing in CHICAGO.
The TEAMSTERS union took the occasion of the meeting in the home market of TRIBUNE CO. to call for retention of the prohibition of ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market.
"The proposed TRIBUNE buyout is an example of why the FCC must concern itself with the ownership structure of media companies -- particularly when waivers of cross-broadcast ownership rules have been sought -- in order to fulfill its mission to protect localism, viewpoint diversity, media access and other issues of vital importance," TEAMSTERS General President JAMES P. HOFFA told the panel in a statement read by International Represenatative DOUG NOWAKOWSKI. Warning of trouble from the takeover of TRIBUNE by SAM ZELL, HOFFA added, "The structure proposed in the TRIBUNE application provides insight into the potential dangers of approving an ownership structure that insulates an individual with total control of a company from the owners of that company as well as the diverse interests of the communities that company serves."
But TRIBUNE Talk WGN-A/CHICAGO VP/GM TOM LANGMYER noted that if TRIBUNE is forced to divest his station, it would likely end up sold to a large multi-station operator from out of town that would introduce non-locally-originated programming to the present all-local lineup on WGN. "Strong programming and a commitment to localism is the ONLY way in our minds that an AM station can be successful," said LANGMYER. "The TRIBUNE COMPANY. with its longtime dedication to news and community service, has made a sustained commitment to supporting a radio station like this. If WGN were sold because an FCC rule required it, WGN would most likely end up no longer being a stand-alone station -- instead falling into the hands of a multi-station conglomerate. It would be programmed out of a distant headquarters office and would likely lose its distinctiveness, local identity and historic appeal. Is this good for the public? We don’t think so, and we can’t imagine the government would think so either."
Obama, Copps Call For Tougher License Renewals
Sen. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL) also sent a staffer to read a statement to the Commission, calling for more regulation of broadasting and more diversity in ownership. OBAMA, the candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, echoed some of Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS' pet opinions in looking for "greater FCC scrutiny and public input" in the license renewal process and public notice and comment for any specific changes in the rules proposed by the Commission.
In his own statement, COPPS said, "We need a system for license renewal that... withhold(s) licenses from those who aren’t doing their jobs, and ensures that the airwaves that belong to you are actually serving you. I say to you and I say to my colleagues: it should be the top priority of the FCC to put some life back into our public oversight responsibilities. Let’s start with licensing -- and let’s start now!"
Adelstein: Diversity Review Overdue
Commissioner JONATHAN ADELSTEIN called for a bipartisan, independent panel to review over 40 policy proposals from the FCC's diversity committee and the MINORITY MEDIA AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COUNCIL, saying, "We now need a comprehensive response to the lack of diversity in programming and ownership. We need to develop policies that engage the minority as owners of the media, not just as consumers or sharecroppers. We need to turn our legacy around."
Rev. JESSE JACKSON, whose OPERATION PUSH headquarters hosted the hearing, also sent along a statement calling media consolidation a "life-or-death issue for communities of color" and calling for the restoration of the old tax certificate program to encourage minority ownership of media outlets.