Senate Poised To Tighten Broadcast Ownership Rules

April 24, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – Today, the Senate Commerce Committee is expected to approve a bipartisan resolution, sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), which would restore a media ownership rule recently rescinded by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The old rule generally restricted a company from owning both a newspaper and a television station in the same city, unless the FCC granted a waiver.

Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office said, “Senator Dorgan’s resolution aims to protect the airing of a multiplicity of voices, which fuels our democracy. Democracy is not served well by a media oligarchy where five or six corporations decide what Americans see in the news. We urge the Commerce Committee to also take up S. 2332, Senator Dorgan’s bill to reverse the media ownership rules to ensure the FCC does not go down this road again.”

Fredrickson also noted that Rupert Murdoch is poised to challenge the new media ownership rule that the FCC adopted in December. Murdoch is seeking waivers to continue to control two newspapers and two television stations in the New York City market.

Fredrickson said, “If the commission allows Murdoch or any one owner to control two television stations and three newspapers in the same market, it would prove the ownership rule is meaningless.” She added, “The consolidation of TV, radio and newspaper ownership that has occurred already limits the scope of the marketplace of ideas and hinders vigorous public debate, thereby posing a great threat to the First Amendment rights of all Americans.

ACLU Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel Michael Macleod-Ball explained that the new rule allows a company to own one paper and one television station in the same city in the top 20 markets as long as there are at least eight independent sources of news and the station is not in the Nielsen top four.

Macleod-Ball said, “In his dissent from the FCC rule change, Commissioner Copps noted that media ownership percentages for women and minorities are going down, not up – and still the FCC voted to make it easier for existing big corporations to control more and more of the major media markets. The ACLU thanks Senator Dorgan and his bipartisan group of Senate co-sponsors for their leadership in offering the resolution and we look forward to their continuing work to reverse the decision of the FCC in this area.”

Link to a copy of the ACLU letter to the Senate Commerce Committee: /freespeech/gen/34734leg20080401.html

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