FCC Report Divulged (09/19/06)

The cartoon is by Arizon cartoonist Brian Fairrington from 2003.  Although he considers himself a conservative, Fairrington is contraversial enough to have shared an exhibit, called “Too Hot to Handle.” of his work and that of one of my favorites,  Steve Benson,

Today, the Federal Communications Commission posted its 2003 draft report,  “Review of the Radio Industry” to its website.  The report shows that for the period since the passace of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 through 2003, there had been a 35% decrease in the number of radio station owners and a dramatic increase in the number of stations owned.   In 1995, the largest network had fewer than 65 stations; as of March 2003, Clear Channel owned 1233. 

 In the case of Clear Channel, this has led to charges of strong-arm tactics and mediocre programming by writers such as Eric Boehlert, now a senior fellow at Media Maters for America, but at the time a senior writer for Salon.

In the Roanoke-Lynchburg market, from where I write, Clear Channel owns the country station, two sports stations, 2 soft rock stations, 1 rock station and two Christian stations.  Readers can check out the ownership in their own markets at the Clear Channel website station finder, here.  The Center for Public Integrity has media ownership and lobbyist tracking tools here

Jeffrey Yorke and Carol Archer reported in Radio and Racords August 31 in  “Clear Channel Presses FCC To Raise Ownership Caps In Largest Markets” 

Clear Channel’s executive VP and chief legal officer Andrew Levin, senior VP of government affairs Jessica Marventano, and outside legal counsel John Fiorini III of K Street law firm, Wiley Rein & Fielding, held separate meetings with Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate and her legal assistant Chris Robbins, and with Commissioner McDowell and his legal assistant, Cristina Chou Pauze.  According to Robbins.   

There was no specific proposal. They just talked about the possibility of further expansion in the largest markets.

Both FCC reports had been leaked to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who wrote the commission’s chairman Kenneth Martin on September 18.

In light of this new discovery, I will ask the Inspector General of the FCC to thoroughly investigate not only the draft 2003 “Review of the Radio Industry” and the 2004 localism study, but also to examine whether it was then or is now the practice of the FCC to suppress facts that are contrary to a desired outcome. Although I understand that you were not Chairman at the time these documents were produced, I wanted to bring this new incident to your attention and urge your office’s full cooperation with the Inspector General.  

In the face of the disclosure of two reports which the FCC never published, the FCC  extended the deadline for public comment period on proposed new rules by a month to October 23, 2006. According to the order of extension, a motion requesting the extension had also been filed by Ion Media Networks (formerly  Paxson Communications), a television company owning 6o stations.  And after Boxer’s letter anda  campaing organized by Stop Big Media, he also ordered  the Inspector General of the FCC to conduct an investigation, as revealed in his September 18 letter responding to Boxer.


 Al Gore traveled to Scotland to talk  August 27, 2006 about his alternative network, Current TV,  at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival.  According to the AP’s Jill Lawless in her story that date, “Gore Lashes Out at Media Consolidation,”  he had this to say,

Democracy is a conversation, and the most important role of the media is to facilitate that conversation of democracy. Now the conversation is more controlled, it is more centralized.



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