Why Los Angeles Matters: Media Reform Update

In the midst of Washington’s political scandals, you might not have heard about an extraordinary moment in U.S. media history. Here’s a quick update:

On Tuesday in Los Angeles, people came out in overwhelming numbers to tell the Federal Communications Commission that Americans want to turn back the tide of media consolidation.

For eight hours, artists, writers, producers, directors, actors, small business owners and local citizens told all five commissioners about the devastating impact of media consolidation.

Nearly 1,000 people packed auditoriums in downtown L.A. and El Segundo; and all but one of the dozens who came forward testified against further media consolidation. (Listen to the testimony.)

The question now is whether FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will actually listen to the public.

The Truth About Media Consolidation

Evidence continues to mount showing the serious problems caused by media consolidation. Free Press recently released a groundbreaking study showing the shockingly low number of TV stations owned by women and people of color. Upon reading the report, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps called the FCC’s failure to promote diversity in our media a “national disgrace.”

This followed news that the FCC had suppressed two studies that revealed the negative impact of media consolidation — including one that showed media concentration was disastrous for local news coverage.

Turning up the Volume Against Big Media

Chairman Martin has pledged to hold five more public hearings before the FCC votes on any media ownership rules changes. If Martin holds to this promise and hears out the public, he will learn that a vast majority of Americans do not want concentrated media. They want local owners, local coverage, and media that represent our diverse communities.

We’re working to make certain these hearings are publicized and packed to the rafters. But after five more hearings like the one in Los Angeles, it would be unthinkable for the FCC to turn a deaf ear to the public and allow the Clear Channels, Disneys, Sinclairs and News Corporations to gobble up even more local media.

Stopping Stevens, Saving the Internet

On other fronts, the 2006 Telecommunications Act has been stalled in the Senate thanks to the massive outcry over Net Neutrality — anchored by our SavetheInternet.com coalition. But the battle is far from over. We’re preparing for a “lame duck” session of Congress after the November 7 elections, when we could face a dark-of-the-night effort to eliminate Net Neutrality. Check out this excellent article at Salon.com that sums up the Net Neutrality campaign and what’s next.

Next week we’ll likely need all hands on deck if the FCC moves to approve the biggest telecommunications merger in history. We must demand that they make Net Neutrality a permanent requirement of the $67 billion merger of AT&T and BellSouth.

Reforming Media, Transforming Democracy

Media policies made in the public’s name must not be made without the public’s informed consent — whether the issue is media ownership, Net Neutrality, public broadcasting or the massive merger of AT&T and BellSouth.

That’s why your active involvement is so important. The more all policies reflect public debate, the more likely the media system they shape will serve the people, not just powerful corporations.

Saul Alinsky famously wrote that the only way to beat organized money is with organized people. Well, organized people just landed a haymaker in Los Angeles. If we keep up the fight, the era of corrupt media policymaking will come to an end.


Robert McChesney
Free Press

P.S. Don’t miss the chance to meet with media reformers from across the country at the 2007 National Conference for Media Reform. Register now at www.freepress.net/conference. Early bird discount ends October 31.

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