Perceptions of Reality on the Eve of Disaster

Three days from now the FCC is expected in a series of 3-2 votes to approve changes to media ownership rules allowing further consolidation. Where radio saw its near-destruction as a useful information source following the Telecom Act’s passage and the consolidation that followed, we have not learned from this mistake, and now much of the same damage will be done to other media outlets.

If you’re inclined to watch the mess as it unfolds, the FCC streams video of its meetings online. I hope to have choice cuts of each Commissioner’s comments available for download in MP3 format later in the day on Monday.

As we stand on the eve of what is likely to be a big step backward in the fight for media democracy, it’s important not to give up hope, especially when the evidence continues to mount that this fight was long rigged in favor of corporate interests. It was heartening to see some evidence this week – from the corporate media itself – that paints a brighter view of the future. Read More

FCC Gives Public A Last-Minute Listen? Don’t Believe the Hype

It’s enough to make you puke: the FCC has released its agenda for the one and only “official public hearing” it will hold on its pending revisions to media ownership rules. Check it out in text (page 1, page 2) or .PDF (page 1, page 2) format.

After the corporate media belatedly began covering the issue (publishing its first stories on the weekend after the written public comment period officially closed), and after an outburst of concern from Congress over the FCC’s foregone conclusions (bigger media is better), FCC Chairman Michael Powell responded like the savvy politician he is. In a symbolic display of civic engagement he agreed to convene the Commission for one “public hearing” in Richmond, Virginia – a whopping 100 miles from Washington, D.C. Read More

FCC Grilled on the Hill: Going Through the Motions

Yesterday the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing concerning competition in the telecommunications industries. All five members of the FCC were present and all were quizzed by the Senators on various issues, most of which dealt with the series of regulatory reviews curently underway at the agency.

The FCC’s review of media ownership reviews wasn’t the hottest topic of the hearing, but the subject did arise. During those brief moments some choice quotes were uttered.

The best came from FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who has clearly felt the sting from critics who decry his zeal for turning over regulatory functions to marketplace forces. In 1998, with the dot-com bubble in full bloom and radio consolidation in full swing, then-junior Commissioner Powell compared the idea of regulation in the public interest to modern art: “people see in it what they want to see. That may be a fine quality for art, but it is a bit of a problem when that quality exists in a legal standard.” Read More

Screwed LPFM Applicants to get Second Chance

This week, the FCC announced a remedial window for LPFM applicants who applied for a license before Congress gutted the plan and disqualified many who’d already applied. These applicants were shafted when the channels that they applied for, which were initially considered open by the FCC’s initial LPFM rule, were suddenly declared off-limits by Congressional fiat. For more than a year now, these applicants have been in a sort of limbo, unable to amend their applications to account for the lower number of open frequencies.

A five-day window for those applicants will open in late October – but many have been permanently disqualified from an LPFM license thanks to the NAB/NPR shenanigans in Congress. Some of those who had applied have gone on the air anyway, and don’t have much interest in trying to re-engage the FCC in the licensing process. Even so, it’s a nice gesture on the FCC’s part. Read More