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Indybay Feature
Sat Jun 26 2004
Federal Court Rules Against FCC: "Revise or Justify"
FCC Rules Overturned
Between 1996 and 2000, the fifty largest media firms and the four media trade organizations spent $111 million on lobbying Congress - the end result? On June 2, 2003, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to loosen its already-barely existent laws governing media ownership. Under the new laws, gigantic firms like Viacom, Walt Disney and Time-Warner, would have the ability to buy out record numbers of smaller media firms, in some cases owning all forms of local media, including radio, tv, print and billboard space. One of the most controversial changes would have increased the national television cap - which currently limits companies to owning stations that reach no more than 35% of the national audience - to 45%. It was opposed by Congress, which eventually compromised on a 39% limit. Millions of people protested all over the United States, with citizens organizing their own public hearings after being told the FCC would not be having any of their own.

On Thursday, June 24, a federal appeals court, in a historic ruling, overturned the FCC's controversial loosening of media ownership rules that would have given Big Media unprecedented monopolistic power. The Third Circuit Court ruling in the Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC case is a victory for the millions of Americans who protested the FCC decision, but unfortunately the fight doesn't end here. The court has given the FCC the rules back with a less-than-clear directive to "revise or justify them," saying the FCC had "not sufficiently justified its particular chosen numerical limits for local television ownership, local radio ownership and cross-ownership of media within local markets".

Last year, FCC Chairman Michael Powell called for public hearings after millions of Americans decried his gutting of media ownership rules, and his private dealings were found to be directly shaping his policy. On May 26, he decided to cancel his own hearing, citing "scheduling conflicts". At the last hearing in San Antonio, Texas, hundreds rallied against Powell's policies for at least 7 hours, and it would appear that he is not willing to let this happen again. He has made time to attend high-priced National Asssociation of Broadcasters conventions and other media lobbyist events in the past few months, but now has no time for his own "localism and diversity" hearings promised to the people. Media reform groups across the country are taking action to stop this and need your help to make sure a public hearing happens in every major city.

Locally, California is still scheduled to have a public hearing in Monterrey on July 21. Join groups like Media Alliance in demanding that big corporations like Time-Warner start getting reigned in. Check out other Indybay Media Allies.

Meanwhile, the SF Bay Independent Media Center will be presented in a workshop at the ACME Summit in San Francisco. Media activists, filmmakers and imcistas from all over the world came together to challenge big media policy from July 1-4. Saturday, July 3 was the day on which volunteers from Indybay presented.

Sign the Free Press Petition | Prometheus Radio Project | Past Coverage of FCC De-Regulations: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Other IMC Coverage: Santa Cruz | New York | Michigan

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