US Media Rules: A Tradeoff for Supporting Bush Policies?

15 April 2003

The Washington DC-based Center for Digital Democracy has expressed alarm that Big Media is tailoring its Iraq war coverage and political reporting to present the Bush administration in the best possible light – the desired tradeoff being a sympathetic decision by the Federal Communications Commission on the issue of media ownership.

The FCC, chaired by Michael K Powell, son of the more famous Colin, has now entered a period of closed session on the liberalization of media ownership rules that currently prevent a TV broadcaster from owning another network or radio station and newspaper in the same market [WAMN: 14-Apr-03]. The waiving of these rules has been the subject of bellicose lobbying by US media giants.

Under existing regulations, no broadcaster is permitted to reach more than 35% of the national audience. There are also strict limits on how many TV and radio stations a company can own in any market.

But according to CDD executive director Jeffrey Chester, the big networks, led by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox, have adopted a “narrow-minded commercial mindset [resulting in failure to] effectively analyse and criticise the Iraq war policy”. Murdoch has encountered with customary impassivity a wave of criticism for imposing his pro-war stance on all News Corporation-owned media outlets.

“It is likely that decisions about how to cover the war on Iraq – especially on television – may be tempered by a concern not alienate the White House,” Chester fears. “These media giants stand to make untold billions if the FCC safeguards are eliminated or weakened.”

Disney, which owns the ABC network, has demanded the relaxation of all broadcast ownership rules and is forcefully against a proposal to open network prime time to independent producers.

Similarly, Gannett group, America’s largest newspaper publisher and owner of the nation’s only national daily, USA Today, has argued against the rule that prevents a broadcaster from owning a TV station in the same market.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff