|United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
|October 17, 2003|
STOP FCC REPEAL OF MEDIA OWNERSHIP RULES
URGE THE SPEAKER TO ALLOW A VOTE ON S. J. RES. 17
In late September the Senate, by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote, approved S.J. Res. 17–a resolution to nullify the Federal Communications Commission rulemaking that in effect repeals regulations regarding media ownership. Immediately after the vote, House Republican leadership indicated that the issue would not be considered or debated in the U.S. House of Representatives. In response, Republican and Democrat legislators initiated a letter for co-signature by members to Speaker Hastert to urge him to schedule the resolution in the House.
The undersigned 12 national organizations representing nearly a 500,000 media and entertainment workers respectfully urges you to sign the letter thus conveying to the Speaker that the issue of media ownership is of critical importance to large and small communities in your district and it deserves a full debate in the House.
From our perspective in today’s already highly concentrated media market-place, robust competition and ownership diversity are essential to the health and viability of the media and entertainment sectors. In the news and information business, competition and diversity help preserve localism in news coverage, enhance the quality and comprehensiveness of news content, assure a multiplicity of voices from a variety of independent sources and reduce the risk that news will be censored or slanted by a few controlling interests. In the entertainment sector, they stimulate the kinds of creativity and variety in programming that the American public has come to expect but that has significantly diminished since the FCC repealed the Financial Interest and Syndication Rule in 1993.
Yet the Commission’s action will in all likelihood undermine competition and diversity in the media marketplace by unleashing a feeding frenzy of corporate acquisitions that will result in more monopolistic cross-ownership of radio, TV, newspapers, the Internet and other media pipelines. In the process, citizen access to diverse and localized sources of information and entertainment will be vastly reduced and the quality of news and entertainment that our members help provide will be further compromised. In fact, The Project for Excellence in Journalism and others have documented that growing consolidation in the news business has led to a serious decline in the quality of local news as distant corporate media executives demand cuts in news budgets to boost profits.
Most importantly, we are also fearful that this abrogation of regulatory stewardship by the Commission’s will in time do irreparable harm to our democracy because deregulation of media ownership on such an unprecedented scale assures contraction of your constituents’ first amendment right to what the Supreme Court has described as the “uninhibited marketplace of ideas.” In our democratic system, media ownership matters. It matters because ultimately it is the deciding factor that determines what your constituents have access to in news, entertainment and information. Most importantly, it matters to our democracy because an informed public is the bedrock of our free and open society.
During the FCC’s rulemaking proceedings, over 2 million Americans (nearly one in every hundred citizens) filed comments urging the Commission not to deregulate media ownership. Hundreds of organizations as diverse as the National Organization of Women, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Rifle Association, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, unions representing media and entertainment professionals as well as an array of liberal and conservative advocacy organizations vocally opposed the FCC’s initiative. Despite this overwhelming and unprecedented opposition, the Commission approved this regulatory rollback.
The nation’s airwaves-the broadcast spectrum-are the people’s property. Through FCC licensing, the American people loan this valuable commodity for a certain time to a variety of proprietors in both the private and public sectors. But citizens retain the right to expect that this community asset will be used in the public interest. The Commission’s regulatory regimens that protect and advance diversity of ownership, encourage competition and creativity and prevent the growth of media monopolies are time-tested means to protect this invaluable community asset; they are public-interest standards worth fighting for.
We hope you concur and that you will send ask Speaker Hastert to give the U.S. House of Representatives the opportunity to vote up or down on S.J. Res. 17. To sign on to the letter, please have your office contact Mike Iger in the office of Rep Maurice Hinchey (224-6335). Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.
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 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, CWA John S. Clark, President National Writers Union (UAW 1981) Marybeth Menaker, President The Newspaper Guild Linda K. Foley, President Screen Actors Guild Melissa Gilbert, President Writers Guild of America, East Herb Sargent, President