FCC is wrong to deregulate of media | TahoeDailyTribune.com

FCC is wrong to deregulate of media

The Media Committee of the Green Party of the United States, expressing the concerns of Greens and millions of other Americans, has sent a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider deregulation of media.

“FCC chair Michael Powell’s plan to ease restrictions on media ownership will severely damage the public’s access to news and information,” said Holly Hart, Iowa Green, co-chair of the Green Party’s Platform Committee, and author of the letter. “Democracy requires a free press — news and opinions from lots of different sources with various viewpoints and biases. This FCC ruling would allow a few giant media conglomerates to swallow up telephone networks, small newspapers, and TV and radio stations. The only news and entertainment we’ll have is what gets approved by AOL Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, Fox, and a few others.”

Greens note the damage that has already been done by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, which weakened rules prohibiting a community’s lone local newspaper to be owned by the same corporation that owns local TV and radio stations.

“Imagine a town in which the only opinions one could find on TV, radio, or in the newspaper might be those of Rush Limbaugh,” said Jo

Chamberlain, a California Green and member of the party’s national Steering Committee.

Apologists for deregulation say that the Internet provides a sufficient variety of news, information and opinion, enough to relax restrictions on other media. But the Internet faces a parallel threat, since broadband requires the use of cable lines, which are already too expensive for millions of Americans — many of whom still can’t afford to go online even through basic phone line service or still lack basic computer skills. In March 2002, the Bush administration allowed cable companies to lock out rival broadband providers, consolidating monopolies in most markets.

“High-speed Internet access is rapidly becoming the property of two companies, AOL Time Warner and Verizon, giving them the license to raise prices at will and to hinder access to certain Web sites,” said Mark Dunlea, chair of the Green Party of New York, co-founder of the Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center, and author of “The Cable TV Omission: A Performance Audit of the NYS Commission on Cable Television.”

“Ceding control of our broadcast media to a few big corporations is exactly the sort of obscenity the FCC is supposed to keep off the air,” added Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown, a former disk jockey and radio news anchor. “The reason for historic strict anti-monopoly regulation of radio and TV is that the airwaves belong to the people, and broad diversity of on-air voices must be preserved in the spirit of the First Amendment.”

The telecommunications industry contributed more than $33 million, including $11.5 million from TV and radio stations and $4.7 million from cable TV, in campaign contributions to Democrats and Republicans in the 2002 election cycle.

“Viacom, Fox, and the other media giants are lobbying intensely in favor of deregulation,” said Kirstin Marr, public relations liaison for the Colorado Green Party. “Now is the time for all Americans who care about free and open access to information to speak up. That goes double for those of us who’ve taken positions against the war on Iraq or in favor of national health insurance, who’ve blown the whistle on toxic dumping or global warming, or espoused ideas contrary to what we’re shown on the evening network news.”

–EHolly Hart is with the the Media Committee of the Green Party of the United States.

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