In 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tried to push new regulations that would allow more consolidation in American media. Americans from all over protested this policy, fearing that media control in fewer and more powerful hands was a bad idea. Congress and the courts short-circuited the plan.
Now it turns out that in 2004, the FCC had its Media Bureau do a study about the effects of media consolidation on local news coverage, and when it didn’t like the results, the FCC destroyed the report. Essentially, the scholars behind the study found that media consolidation means less news coverage of local events– five and a half fewer minues less per half-hour of news. This concern was voiced by many in the 2003 FCC public comments, and but the FCC poo-pooed the idea.
The whistleblower who made this report public, a former FCC lawyer, claims that “senior managers at the agency ordered that ‘every last piece’ of the report be destroyed. ‘The whole project was just stopped, end of discussion.” Not sure who those “senior managers” are. Some sites are claiming that the order to destroy was given by former FCC head Michael Powell (son of Colin Powell). This would make sense, as he created the localism task force, but I haven’t seen any evidence yet that Powell gave the kill command (Powell even hearing about the report). Powell has stepped down, and is being replaced by another pro-”free media market” commissioner, Kevin Martin. At his renomination hearings, Senator Barbara Boxer smacked him around a bit with news about this report, if you feel like watching the video. Martin has solemnly promised to find out what happened regarding the report, and says “it is unclear why this report was never released to the public.” Actually, it’s really, really clear.
A couple of media reform groups are calling for action on this cover-up and on media consolidation. You can sign Stop Big Media’s petition here, and Hear Us Now’s here. You can also contact the FCC directly here, and I’ll keep an eye out for more of those “public forums” the FCC commissioners put on every now and again to look democratic.
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