FCC 'Stifled' Unwelcome Media Data, Alleges US Senator

22 September 2006

WASHINGTON, DC: Displaying a bobbing-and-weaving act that Muhamed Ali might have envied, the Federal Communications Commission has yet to explain to Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat, California) how it managed to 'shelve' two internal studies that revealed data inconsistent with its political agenda.

Undeterred by the FCC's ringcraft skills, the aptly-named Senator is persisting with her demands to know why and how the federal body managed to 'mislay' two of its own studies into media consolidation.

The studies, conducted in 2004, somewhat inconveniently revealed increasing concentration in the control of US radio stations - a fact at odds with the FCC 's 3-2 vote a year earlier to relax the limits on media ownership.

That decision was taken in the face of widespread opposition across the political spectrum as it would have permitted a handful of already dominant media conglomerates to grow even larger.

However, the vote was overturned by the US Court of Appeals which ruled that the FCC had failed to justify the raised ownership limits.[WARC News: 25-Jun-04].

In a letter sent this week to FCC chairman Kevin Martin, Boxer wrote: "I am growing more and more concerned." She asked him "to examine whether it was then or is now the practice of the FCC to suppress facts that are contrary to a desired outcome."

Martin, who did not take up his appointment until 2005, replied promptly, claiming he had not seen either study. "I too am concerned about what happened to these two draft reports. I have asked the inspector general of the FCC to conduct an investigation into what happened to these . . . documents."

The issue of growing concentration in media ownership is again under the spotlight as the FCC and its new Republican chairman are again considering the thorny issue of easing existing limits.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff