Media Consolidation: A primer on making your opinion heard
By Rick Karr
Media laws and regulations are complex. And the process that establishes them is positively byzantine – a complex dance that involves not only the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but also Congress, the White House, courts, cabinet-level departments, and other agencies, as well.
So here's a primer on how to tell the powers that be what you think about the current controversy over media consolidation that we cover on this week's JOURNAL:
(Photo: Robin Holland)
The first steps are likely to be taken by the FCC. Its chairman, Kevin J. Martin, has proposed changing what's known as the ”Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule” (pdf) – in other words, he wants to let newspapers buy radio and TV stations in the cities where they're published.
Martin argues that the change would only affect the country's 20 largest urban areas, but his Democratic colleagues on the FCC disagree (pdf). Martin has set a deadline of Dec. 11 for public comments; sources in Washington tell us that the FCC is likely to vote a week later, on Dec. 18.
You can file a comment with the FCC online. Click on the circle next to "Media Ownership Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - Docket 06-121," then click "Continue" at the bottom of the page. You can also send comments straight to each of the five commissioners – or the FCC as a whole – via email, phone, fax, or mail. If you choose one of those routes, make sure you mention that you're commenting on "Docket 06-121" - the bureaucracy's name for Martin's proposal.
Congress is getting involved, too. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) have introduced The Media Ownership Act of 2007, which would delay the FCC vote on Martin's proposal and require the Commission to examine how local communities have been affected by media consolidation. You can find out how to contact your Senators here.
This debate may drag on for months. Martin's agenda has taken flack from Democrats and Republicans alike. Some media firms say it doesn't go far enough. The last time the FCC voted to loosen ownership rules, in 2003, both the Senate and the federal courts got involved.
So keep watching THE JOURNAL, because we'll follow the story.