US Media Consolidation Hearings Begin

05 October 2006

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood's backroom workers came out in force to protest to the US media regulator that consolidation is stifling job opportunities, creativity and diversity in the industry.

The Federal Communications Commission hearing was the first of a series to gauge the views of Joe Public about increasingly powerful media conglomerates.

The FCC, chaired by Republican Kevin Martin, is considering overhauling media ownership limits which currently bar companies from owning newspapers and television stations in the same markets and also prevent major TV networks from combining.

The Commission tried to lift the common-ownership ban in 2003 but was derailed by a public outcry. A federal appeals court then sent the rules back to be reworked

The same opposition to those changes is being heard again as the FCC begins its renewed effort.

Complaints about job cuts in newsrooms, less local programming on radio and broadcast TV stations and calls for more local ownership dominated the hearing, held at the University of Southern California and attended by Tinsel Town's lesser known faces.

Martin himself has made no secret of his desire for loosening the rules but told the audience in conciliatory fashion: "The decisions we will make about our ownership rules will be as difficult as they are critical. We must also recognize, though, that some of our rules have not been updated for years and may no longer reflect the current marketplace."

Many of those in favour of change cite the internet and the expansion of satellite and cable broadcasting as offering the media diversity craved by naysayers.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff