Thank you for contacting me regarding efforts at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lift caps on the number of outlets that any one company may own in each media market. This matter is of critical importance to our nation, and I appreciate the time you have taken to raise this issue with me.
As you may know, the FCC relaxed media ownership limits in 1996, ushering in unprecedented consolidation, especially in radio, where just a few companies now dominate the airwaves. The FCC is now proposing to loosen these ownership rules even further by allowing a single company to own several types of media outlets in a community. Such a change would pave the way for large media conglomerates to dramatically expand their influence in local media markets. The FCC will vote on its proposal on June 2, 2003.
To be fair, the FCC has been forced to revisit these ownership rules after it unsuccessfully defended the limits in four recent court cases. However, the courts have not instructed the FCC to loosen its regulations, and yet, this is the course that the FCC has, thus far, chosen to pursue. Although FCC Chairman Michael Powell recently acknowledged that he is "troubled" by media consolidation, I am concerned that his deregulatory agenda threatens to undermine many of the pro-consumer policies that the FCC adopted during the Clinton Administration.
It is in the public's interest to foster an environment in which many independent media organizations can deliver entertainment and news. That is why I joined many of my Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to Chairman Powell urging him to delay a final rulemaking until the FCC can justify publicly "how any changes in media rules will promote diversity, competition, and localism." I have also cosponsored House Resolution 218, which calls on the FCC not to weaken current ownership rules, and to better examine and inform the public about the consequences of media concentration.
Please know that I understand the importance of the FCC's upcoming vote. We are, in fact, fighting to preserve what little diversity remains in the media sector. Since 1975, two-thirds of America's independent newspapers have disappeared. The number of minority-owned television stations in 2000 was at its lowest level in 10 years. Attention to local issues is rapidly declining and will diminish further as local media outlets are bought by outside interests. Children's television shows have decreased by almost half over the past five years. Weakening our media ownership rules will only exacerbate these problems. A small handful of companies should not control the public's access to information. I shall continue to work with my Congressional colleagues to ensure a diversity of viewpoints throughout our nation's media outlets.
Thank you again for contacting me. Your views help shape the way I represent our district. Please continue to keep me apprised of issues that are important to you.
Member of Congress