Opposition to FCC Media Rule Changes Spawns Odd Alliances

28 May 2003

That old axiom, ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend,’ appears to have spawned some surprising alliances in opposition to the proposed changes by the Federal Communications Commission to the rules governing US media ownership.

Such unlikely bedfellows as the Conference of Catholic Bishops, Consumers Union, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Organization for Women, National Rifle Association, Parents Television Council and the Writers Guild of America all participated in a protest meeting convened by the FCC’s two Democratic commissioners – Jonathan S Adelstein and Michael J Copps – both of whom oppose the lifting of present restrictions.

The democrat duo are, however outgunned on the FCC’s ruling quintet where Republican-appointed chairman Michael K Powell is flanked by party lieutenants Kathleen Q Abernathy and Kevin J Martin.

The unlikely alliance met Tuesday in Washington to add its combined voice to the outcry against the proposed changes, which many fear will lead even greater domination of America’s media by a handful of powerful voices. Representatives from the organizations said the number and diversity of groups opposed to the commission’s intention signifies profound national discomfort .

But supporters of the Powell plan led by the major broadcast networks and news conglomerates, argue that new technology and the proliferation of competition have rendered the current rules unnecessary.

Furthermore, they aver that free over-the-air television could be jeopardized without changes – citing the migration of expensive [and by extension better quality] programming to cable and satellite subscription services.

The latter point is vigorously disputed by the FCC’s critics who point out that production of this programming is already controlled by a smattering of large corporations.

Opines Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights: “Diversity of voices, not merely the variety of programming, is what matters.” In moving to change the rules, the commission is promoting “economic efficiency to the exclusion of diversity of voices and viewpoints”.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff