Monday, March 01, 2004
The popular backlash against the FCC's lifting of media ownership
regulations is bearing fruit: Two recent victories show that our
collective efforts are having an impact.
First: Corporate-sponsored junkets for FCC Commissioners have been
stopped. Last year, the Center for Public Integrity revealed that the FCC
had accepted over $2.8 million in free travel and entertainment from the
very industries they were regulating. Public outrage at this and the
loosening of media ownership regulations resulted in the FCC banning this
practice. For the complete story, visit
Second: Low-power FM broadcasting -- nonprofit radio stations with a
reach of just a few miles -- recently received a huge boost. Last Friday,
the FCC recommended to Congress that it eliminate restrictions that
deprived communities of their own locally-oriented radio stations. If
Congress writes this into law, it will clear the way for hundreds -- if
not thousands -- of communities to begin broadcasting.
The battle in Congress over Low-power FM licenses is about to begin, and
Big Media is going to fight back - hard. We're going to need all of your
support to beat them. Stay tuned to http://www.mediareform.net/lpfm for
Neither of these developments would have even been thinkable a year ago,
proving what Free Press has believed all along: when corrupt policymaking
practices are brought into the daylight for all to see, the public will
demand action, and regulators and legislators will be forced to respond.
We are making headway.
It's quite possible that the federal appeals court in Philadelphia will
roll back the all-important newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule,
thanks to public pressure and a brilliant legal fight led by the Media
Access Project. Congress is still trying to roll back the rest of the new
rules, with growing bipartisan support. More and more Americans are
realizing that we have to fight for better media if we want a better
country and a better democracy.
The Free Press Team
PS: This Friday, February 27th, NOW with Bill Moyers will air an expose on
the repression of peaceful protest during FTAA negotiations in Miami last
November, featuring footage collected by Independent Media Centers across
P.P.S.: Stay up to date on news relating to media reform with our free
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A brief history of Low Power FM:
In 1999, media activists convinced the FCC of the need for low power FM
broadcasting: 10 to 100 watt, nonprofit neighborhood radio stations with a
reach of only a few miles. No sooner was a nationwide service implemented
than large commercial interests used their massive lobbying power to place
limitations on it, claiming that low power FM transmissions would result
in an unremitting "ocean of interference" with existing stations.
Industry's efforts, spearheaded by the National Association of
Broadcasters, culminated in the successful passage of the Radio
Preservation Act of 2000. Severe restrictions on where low power stations
could exist on the dial ensured that community broadcasters would exist
only in the most remote of rural locales. It also demanded an official
study on potential interference issues, economic impact assessments, and a
collection of public comment with a full FCC report to Congress - all
amounting to a disingenuous stall tactic.
The Congressionally-mandated study was completed earlier last year. It
unequivocally found the NAB's claims of interference to be bogus. Public
interest groups including Free Press commissioned additional research to
defend the report and to file comments with the FCC reiterating its
findings. On Friday, February 20, these efforts paid off when the FCC
released its recommendations to Congress, agreeing with public interest
advocates that industry claims of interference were patently false. They
called for the lifting of the stringent industry-sponsored restrictions on
low power broadcasting.
Now it is up to Congress to act on the FCC's recommendations. This will
clear the way for hundreds - if not thousands - of communities to begin
broadcasting locally-originated content. While the fight in Congress
remains, thanks to public outcry over the FCC's actions last summer, many
in Congress are eager to pass legislation that represents a positive step
towards encouraging localism and diversity on our airwaves.