|United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
|April 11, 2003|
The Federal Communications Commission is expected within the next month to begin final deliberations on proposals to substantially deregulate current restrictions on media cross-ownership. These and other related rules have prevented the rise of media monopolies in the news, entertainment, and information marketplace. The consolidated rule-making that is now reaching its final stages, has been described by Chairman Michael Powell as among the most sweeping regulatory actions in FCC history. In the final analysis, what the agency does could radically reshape the nation’s media landscape with potential adverse consequences for large and small media markets throughout the country.
For this reason, the undersigned organizations seek your assistance in urging the FCC to issue a new Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM) on any new rule regarding media ownership.
In today’s already highly concentrated media marketplace, our organizations–which collectively represent over one half million media professionals, artists, technicians and blue collar workers who are involved in all phases of news and entertainment programming–have continued to be advocates for robust competition and ownership diversity.
In the news and information business, these precepts help preserve localism in news coverage, enhance the quality and comprehensiveness of news content, and assure that a multiplicity of voices are heard from a variety of independent sources.
Most importantly, competition and diversity in news and information expands the public’s informed participation in our democracy–a bedrock of our free and open society.
In entertainment, competition and diversity are the economic imperatives that stimulate the kinds of creativity and variety in programming that the American public has come to expect but which has been drastically reduced due to the abolition of the financial interest-syndication rules that resulted in a severe contraction in the number of independent program production owners.
In short, regardless of the number of available media outlets, ownership matters, as does the FCC’s regulatory regimen that protects and advances these important public interest objectives. The repeal of the rules now under review by the FCC or their substantial diminution will have a profound impact upon this nation’s news, entertainment, information, communications and advertising industries.
Given this likely scenario, it is incumbent upon the Commission to assure that its regulatory review process is open, fair, and comprehensive. To that end, we applaud the bipartisan leadership in the Senate of Republican Senators Allard, Collins, Hutchison, Lott and Snowe as well as Commerce Committee Democrats Hollings, Dorgan, Inouye, and seven others who expressed their concerns in an April 9th letter (attached) to FCC Chairman Powell stating that:
“We believe it is virtually impossible to serve the public interest in this extremely important and highly complex proceeding without letting the public know about and comment on the changes you intend to make to these critical rules.”
We fully endorse the position taken by these Senators and would hope that members of the House of Representatives share their concerns. When the FCC issued its initial NPRM the Commission solicited general public comment on the existing rules but not on any specific new set of standards. In our view, the FCC should issue a new NPRM on any new proposed rule before adopting any final new rule.
We, the undersigned 15 national organizations urge you to request of FCC Chairman Michael Powell that the Commission should go the extra mile to assure focused public input on the specifics of their proposed final rule.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request. Should you or your staff need additional information, please contact Mike Gildea, Executive Director of the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees at 202-638-0320.
Actors’ Equity Association Patrick Quinn, President American Federation of Television and Radio Artists John Connolly, President American Federation of Musicians Thomas F. Lee, President Communications Workers of America Morton Bahr, President Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO Paul E. Almeida, President Directors Guild of America Martha Coolidge, President International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Edwin D. Hill, President International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Thomas C. Short, President National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians John S. Clark, President National Writers Union (UAW 1981) Jonathan Tasini, President The Newspaper Guild Linda K. Foley, President Screen Actors Guild Melissa Gilbert, President The Caucus for Television Producers, Writers and Directors Charles W. Fries, Chair Writers Guild of America, East Herb Sargent, President Writers Guild of America, West Victoria Rifkin, President