FCC Commissioners Face Senate Panel
December 13, 2007 at 4:46 PM (PT)
Chairman KEVIN MARTIN and his fellow FCC commissioners went before the Senate Commerce Committee for a grilling on ownership rules, cross-ownership, diversity, and other issues TODAY (12/13). MARTIN insisted that the Commission will go ahead with a DECEMBER 18 vote on media ownership rules changes, including an easing of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule, despite bitter opposition, including tough questioning from Sen. JOHN KERRY (D-MA). And Sen. DANIEL INOUYE (D-HI) threatened to overhaul the Commission in 2008, agreeing with Sen. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV) that the Committee should push for a reauthorization bill that addresses the FCC's processes and commisisoners' terms.
MARTIN's prepared statements sounded his familiar theme that the Commission's process was, contrary to widespread criticism, open and inclusive of public comment. He stressed the financial difficulty in which newspapers are finding themselves today as support for his push to weaken the cross-ownership ban ("If we believe that newspaper journalism plays a unique role in the functioning of our democracy, we cannot turn a blind eye to the financial condition in which these companies find themselves").
Commissioner JONATHAN ADELSTEIN's prepared comments also stuck to a familiar theme, with ADELSTEIN insisting, "The Commission’s current course, if unchecked, could cause lasting harm to American media for future generations. Without major changes, the pending proposal before us will decidedly hurt competition, diversity and localism. Independent voices will be silenced; women and people of color, who already own tragically few media outlets, will find them even further out of reach; and the public will not receive any quantifiable measure of more local news, information or decent family programming."
And Commissioner ROBERT MCDOWELL's comments stressed the changes wrought on the media landscape by the Internet, noting, "Almost no one has disputed the data that shows we live in a media world that is far different from the one that existed even at the time of the 1996 Act. Consumers’ eyeballs and corresponding ad dollars are migrating to new media platforms. The HOLLYWOOD writers’ strike is a good example of this phenomenon. The strike is all about following the audience and ad revenue. Creators are taking their content directly to the Internet. Under this new scenario, viewers that would usually be tuned in to broadcast entertainment are, despite the strike, able to find, download and watch new and different programming choices directly."