This news release was received from Jen Howard of Free Press, the
Northampton, Mass.-based media advocacy group.
---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 14:52:28 -0400 From: Jen Howard Free Press
June 19, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jon Bartholomew, Common Cause (207) 878-4126 Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x 22
Broad Coalition Mobilizes for FCC Hearing in Portland
June 28th Event Offers Chance for Public to Testify on Media Localism
Portland, Maine -- On June 28th all five Federal Communications Commissioners will meet face-to-face with the public at a hearing at the Portland High School auditorium to discuss sweeping changes to the nation's media ownership rules. The event will begin at 4 p.m. and last until late in the evening.
"Big Media companies have plenty of opportunities to make their views known in Washington," said Jon Bartholomew of Common Cause Maine. "This hearing is the chance for citizens in Maine to finally be heard on the dangers of media consolidation. We're grateful that the FCC chose to visit Maine and encourage citizens to participate in this important hearing."
The hearing will feature an "open microphone" session for the public to offer testimony on a first-come, first-served basis.
A broad-based coalition of local and national groups is urging its members to attend the hearing and testify about the impacts of media consolidation. They include Common Cause, the Community Television Association of Maine, the League of Young Voters, community radio stations WMPG and WERU, MoveOn.org, the Community Television Network, The Newspaper Guild, Free Press, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Prometheus Radio Project, United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc., and U.S. PIRG.
"With ownership from far away come agendas from far away," added Brian Hiatt, director of communications and online organizing for the League of Young Voters. "Local ownership is the best way to ensure that broadcasters serve the public interest, just like engagement in local politics safeguards against interests from far away."
The FCC is currently reviewing longstanding media ownership rules, including the limits on the number of television and radio stations a company can own in one area and the prohibition on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership -- which prevents companies from owning a television or radio station and the major daily newspaper in most markets.
"Without local access to the airwaves, all hope of reclaiming our democracy is lost. That may sound a bit melodramatic, but it's the simple truth," said Portland resident Matt Power, producer of Liberty News TV. "We're approaching the point where a tiny group of media corporations tell the public what to think. The inevitable results: bad political choices, bad environmental choices, bad parenting choices, bad choices about how we live our lives and treat others. You name it -- without local media control, almost nothing we get from the television, the radio, the newspaper or the Internet will show us how to improve the public good."
"When people want to know what happened at the latest City Council meeting or when the next School Board meeting is, they turn to their local television stations and newspapers," said Joel Kelsey, organizer for Consumers Union. "These are by far the most dominant sources of local news and information. By lifting the ban on cross-ownership of television stations and major daily newspapers, the FCC would be allowing the two most competitive sources of local news to merge. Weakening ownership caps undermines any remaining benefits of local competition, limits consumer choice and will make it much harder for localism and diversity to thrive in American media."
In 2003, Martin joined then-Chairman Michael Powell in voting to seriously weaken these same media ownership rules. In response, millions of people contacted the FCC and Congress to oppose the changes. The Senate voted to overturn the rules, which were later tossed out in federal court -- sending the FCC back to the drawing board.
"Community television is the essence of media localism," said Tony Vigue of the Community Television Association of Maine. "Maine is fortunate to have over 90 community television stations that together deliver more than 15,000 hours of local television programming per week. This is far more than all the commercial stations combined. Our ability to do this is a direct result of countless volunteer hours and direct financial support from locally negotiated franchise agreements with the video service providers, who use the public right-of-way for commercial profit. Recent FCC rulings have put this established framework in jeopardy and we will be present at these hearings to voice our concerns for the future of community television."
"Consolidation has already led to the loss of local media ownership in Portland, with the majority of the most influential local broadcast owners selling to out-of-state Big Media owners in the past decade," said Yolanda Hippensteele, outreach director of Free Press. "FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and the other commissioners need to hear how these Big Media companies are serving -- or failing to serve -- local communities in Maine."
For more information, visit http://www.stopbigmedia.com or http://www.commoncause.org/portlandhearing