Â Coalition Shocked (Shocked!)Â by FCC’s Secret Timetable
Last weekÂ itÂ was disclosedÂ thatÂ Federal Communications Chairman Kevin MartinÂ plans toÂ hold a vote in December on whether to let Big Media get bigger by permitting newspaper owners toÂ control television andÂ radio stations in the same metropolitan area.
Â In 2006 the Federal Communications Commission began reviewing the rules that limitÂ so called cross-ownership of print and broadcast media in the same geography. The FCC tried to change these rules in 2002 to allow greater media consolidation butÂ the was a hugeÂ public outcry led to congressional and court actions that reversed the rule-relaxation and maintained the status quo that bars newspaper-broadcast cross ownership.
Now Big Media is trying once againÂ to get these rules relaxed, this time arguingÂ that print and broadcastÂ must combine toÂ compete withÂ Big Internet (background).
Earlier thisÂ week Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) sent a letterÂ to Martin urging him not toÂ allow further consolidationÂ until “the FCCÂ . . .Â first establish(s) Â sufficient mechanisms in placeÂ to ensure that the broadcasters are serving their local communities” before considering rule changes that would allow moreÂ consolidation.
TheÂ StopBigMedia.com CoalitionÂ Â issuedÂ a statement saying it wasÂ “Shocked by FCC’s Secret Timetable.” Oh, nonsense.Â Secrecy — or more precisely, selective disclosure –Â is common at FCC according toÂ a Sept. 2007 report from theÂ General Accountability Office ReportÂ (pdf file) the agency that serves as the investigative arm of Congress.
The GAO said FCC oftenÂ favored big lobbies by giving them access to agendas and other critical materials before their opponents.Â According toÂ page four:
“We are recommending that FCC take steps to ensure equal access to information . . . so that all stakeholders have the same information to inform their participation in the rule-making process. FCC took no position on our recommendations.”
USA Today reporter Paul Davidson wrote a tight, piece on this with goodÂ background. Give it a read if you have time.