Some Media Pros, 'Afraid to Speak for Fear of Retribution': FCC Commissioner
"It has been a revelation to me that there are media professionals with
strong feelings about the downsides of consolidation for the American people
who are afraid to speak for fear of retribution.
"I hear privately that speaking out on this issue would cost many people
their careers. If this is true then we need to find a way for them to be
heard without fear of retribution."
This came from FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps as he delivered the
McGannon Lecture on Communications Policy and Ethics at Fordham University.
Calling for the FCC to establish a special procedure to combat retribution
against those who testify against media consolidation, Copps said:
"I am working with my fellow Commissioners to establish an anonymous
testimony procedure for any producer, writer, musician, actor, broadcaster,
or other media professional who feels threatened," he went on. "I recognize
that this presents challenges for a public proceeding, but so, too, does a
climate of fear that chokes off needed input for important decisions."
At issue is the FCC's review of rules that seek to protect localism,
independence, and diversity in the media.
These rules, among other things, currently limit a single corporation from
dominating local TV markets; from merging a community's TV stations, radio
stations, and newspaper; from merging two of the major TV networks; and from
controlling more than 35% of all TV households in the nation.
Chairman Michael Powell has announced that the Commission will vote on
whether to fully or partially eliminate these rules this spring.
Copps also announced two New Media Concentration Hearings. "In order to
increase public access to the Commission before the most important decision
we will make this year, I am announcing two field hearings on media
concentration - one in Seattle in early March at the University of
Washington; and a second in Durham, North Carolina later in March at Duke
University," he said.
"I have invited each of the other Commissioners to these hearings, which
will give us the opportunity to receive testimony from interested parties in
regions directly impacted by our decisions. I think that talking to citizens
in places like Washington State and North Carolina is needed before we can
make an informed decision. We can't pretend everyone reads the Federal
Register or has lobbyists to make their voice heard at the FCC. We have a
responsibility to reach out."