FCC's (Almost) Secret, Scary Halloween Hearings

| 10/31/2007 3:10:28 PM

Our friends at Free Press, a national nonpartisan organization fighting to keep the public informed about and involved in the making of national media policy, organized a rally outside of Federal Communications Commission headquarters on Halloween morning. More than 150 citizens showed up, according to a news release sent out a few hours later, to urge the federal agency to vote against any rule changes that could result in more consolidation of media ownership.

Apparently, FCC Chairman and big media booster Kevin Martin has proposed an “expedited timeline for rule changes that could allow a company to own a newspaper and several radio and television stations in a single city.”

It’s the same old power grab: Martin, like his predecessor, Michael Powell, is trying to do his business-buddies’ bidding without giving the public proper notice. According to a joint release issued by FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein—lone Democrats and media reform heroes profiled in the July/August issue of Utne Reader—“neither we nor the public received any confirmation that the hearing would occur until … just 5 business days before the event.” A scheduling trick that is “unacceptable and unfair to the public.”

As of 2 p.m. on October 31, there was some good news from the hearing. The FCC has, according to CNET, unanimously “approved a rule that would ban exclusive agreements that cable television operators have with apartment buildings, opening up competition for other video providers that could eventually lead to lower prices.”

—David Schimke

UPDATE: The FCC’s aggressive timetable may be delayed, according to the LA Times. Commissioner Copps was quoted in the article saying, “A rush to judgment to clear the way for more big media mergers? No way.”