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Senate Votes Against Media Consolidation

May 16, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

There’s little public record of this, but last night the Senate nearly-unanimously approved by voice vote restore a long-standing media consolidation ban.

The bill, S.J.Res.28, simply states “that Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to broadcast media ownership (Report and Order FCC 07-216), received by Congress on February 22, 2008, and such rule shall have no force or effect.”

According to ArsTechnica, FCC 07-216 (124-page .pdf) basically says this: A newspaper/TV station combination owned by one party in the same Designated Market Area (DMA) is in the public interest as long as a) the station does not rank among the top four TV licenses in audience size, b) the combo doesn’t involve more than one TV station, and c) eight “voices” (TV stations or newspapers) survive outside the merger.

Here’s the Coalition on the vote:

>The Senate vote is good news for everyone who is fed up with a media system, that, in the words of Jon Stewart, is “hurting America” with propaganda pundits, embedded journalists, horse-race election coverage, and celebrity gossip posing as news. It reflects growing awareness — in Congress and with average Americans — of the perils of concentrated media ownership. Namely, insatiable profit pressures that gut newsrooms, replace labor-intensive investigative news with salacious, cheap-to-cover stories, and encourage the dumbing-down of the most pressing issues into 30-second sound bites and partisan shout-fests.
>Media concentration is also central to the rise of extremists like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who overwhelm the dial on conglomerates owned and run by businessmen with radical partisan politics.

And for a different perspective, the Heritage Foundation:

>Critics of the FCC’s action argue that newspaper/ broadcast cross-ownership would lead to a dangerous concentration of power in the media business and warn of massive monopolies restricting Americans’ access to news and varied information. Despite the apocalyptic rhetoric, however, Americans are in no danger of seeing their news and information monopo­lized, least of all by newspapers. Rather than increased concentration, recent decades have brought an his­toric expansion of information sources and their diversity. Instead of dominating today’s media world, newspapers—and, to some extent, broadcasters—are struggling to remain viable.
>In this dynamic and competitive media landscape, a ban on cross-ownership simply makes no sense. It is unnecessary and downright harmful to consum­ers—and even detrimental to competition. More­over, like the FCC’s long-repealed Fairness Doctrine, such rules can become a tool for ideologically moti­vated interference in media content.

The bill now goes to the House, where it’s being sponsored by Jay Inslee (D-WA).

Pictured above is Byron Dorgan (D-ND), the bill’s main proponent in the Senate.

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