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December 12, 2008

BILL MOYERS: Finally, the other big story out of Chicago this week was news that that city's Tribune Company, owner of the "Chicago Trib" and "Los Angeles Times", as well as other newspapers, 24 TV stations and the Chicago Cubs, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Its owner, Sam Zell, blamed the economy and $13 billion worth of debt.

When Zell took the company private last year he received a waiver of the Federal Communications Commission rule barring ownership of both a newspaper and television station in the same local market, saying it was the only way he could make the deal work. He was supported in his effort by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Regular viewers of the JOURNAL know that media consolidation has been always been an important issue for us. We've been critical of Chairman Martin and his predecessor Michael Powell's attempts to give the big media multinationals free rein to take control of more and more TV and radio stations, drastically hurting local news coverage, independence and diversity.

That's what the Commission heard last year in public hearings across the country.

CHICAGO PUBLIC HEARING PARTICIPANT: If the FCC is here wanting to know if Chicago's residents are being well served. The answer is no. If local talent is being covered? The answer is no. If community issues are being handled sensitively? The answer is no. If minority groups getting the coverage and input that they need? The answer is no, the answer is no.

SEATTLE PUBLIC HEARING PARTICIPANT: We told you a year ago when you came to Seattle that more media consolidation is a patently bad idea. No ifs ands or buts about it. So with all due respect, I ask you, what part about that did you not understand?

BILL MOYERS: This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a scathing report attacking Martin's tenure at the FCC. The title? "Deception and Distrust." It chronicles what the authors call "egregious abuses of power" by Kevin Martin, who "...manipulated, withheld, or suppressed [agency] data, reports and information" to support his agenda.

President-elect Obama will soon appoint a new FCC chairman and is solidly on the record against media consolidation. Kevin Martin has hinted to some a willingness to stay on a bit to ease the transition. Thanks, but no thanks.

You can check out our continuing coverage of the FCC and media consolidation by clicking on our Web site at

That's it for the JOURNAL. I'm Bill Moyers. We'll see you next week.

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