FCC Opens Comment Period Before Voting on Ownership Rules

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Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, left, and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn take notes during a town hall meeting in 2011. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to push back a vote on relaxing media ownership rules and open the proposal to public comment following an outcry from public interest groups concerned about media consolidation and the lack of diversity in the media. Chairman Julius Genachowski’s original plan was to hold the vote at the commission’s December meeting, but when the vote did not appear on the meeting’s agenda, some worried Genachowski might call for a private vote without public input before the new year.

The comment period was announced by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn during confirmation hearings held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee yesterday.

“I …would like you to know, in that particular proceeding, that we, by my request, have extended the comment period for 30 days. And so the public interest groups and all others interested will have a more robust opportunity to engage,” Clyburn said, responding to a question by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Boxer and eight other senators had co-signed a letter asking the FCC not to proceed without first explaining how this current attempt to relax laws was different from an attempt in 2007 “that the public, the Senate and a federal appeals court resoundingly rejected.”

Clyburn also said that for fourteen years, she served as general manager and publisher of a North Carolina weekly newspaper. “Diversity in media, those types of issues, are what I lived and breathed for a number of years,” she said, “so I commit to you my full participation.”

Later in the same hearing, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who had sent her own letter to Genachowski expressing her disappointment, suggested that if the commission were to vote to suspend the ownership rules, Congress might step in.

“I feel very strongly that the commission may be heading toward a resolution of disapproval by Congress if it continues down this route. I mean, this is not the Rupert Murdoch view of the world. We’re saying that if you want to have an independent media, they need to be independent, not consolidated. And so we will be loud and boisterous about what the commission is intending to do.”

Check out our “Fight Media Monopoly” spotlight page for the latest interviews, insight and information on Big Media’s power play.

Five Ways to Fight Media Consolidation

1. Submit a filing to the FCC and give them your input. When submitting to the FCC's filing system, Free Press suggests using the proceeding number 09–182, which indicates that you are giving your opinion on the media ownership debate.

2. Sign a petition at FreePress.net and tell the FCC you are against relaxing media ownership laws.

3. Write a letter to the editor of your local news source explaining what's at stake with the FCC's vote.

4. Call your congressional representatives and ask them to put pressure on the FCC to not relax media ownership rules. Ten senators have already sent letters to the FCC.

5. Tweet at your representatives to raise awareness and express your point of view using #StopTheFCC.

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