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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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November 2, 2007 4:28 PM

Seattle hearing reaction

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The FCC has clearly decided go through the legal motions of hearing the public's concerns about media ownership issue. If the commission was acting in the public's interest it would not have given only four business days notice for next Friday's hearing on media ownership.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is responsible for picking when and where the commission's hearings take place. His actions during the past few weeks demonstrate that he wants to fast track changes to media ownership. He gave only five business days notice for the commission's last localism hearing, which took place on Halloween. Martin has done the same thing with the Seattle hearing, which is the FCC's last of six hearings on media ownership. Martin wants a vote on media ownership rules by Dec. 18.

The short notice is a disservice to the public. How can the commissioners possibly distill the mountain of public testimony from the hearings, and digest studies about media ownership by Dec. 18? They cannot.

Unfortunately, Martin probably has the votes to loosen media ownership rules to allow more concentration. Three of the FCC's commissioners, including Martin, are Republicans. Martin voted with the former chairman, Michael Powell, in 2003 to allow a company to own a newspaper, eight radio stations, a television station, and an Internet Service Provider in the same market.

Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, the two Democrats on the FCC, are opposed to freeing corporations from the current constraints. Hopefully Congress and the courts feel the same as Copps and Adelstein.

The reaction to today's announcement has been swift from the media reform crowd, and politicians.

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, summed up what most people who follow this issue felt about the shotgun hearing.

On late Friday afternoon, Chairman Martin announced the last so-called hearing on media ownership for just one week from today -- next Friday in Seattle. This is another slap in the face to the American public. Chairman Kevin Martin's determination to ignore millions of concerned citizens, Congress and simple fairness is outrageous. It is now crystal clear that Chairman Martin could care less about what happens to our local media. This whole process has been a charade.

Two of our state's delegation were quick to send out press releases denouncing the timing of the hearing. Sen. Maria Cantwell deals with media issues on the Senate Commerce Committee, and has been a strong voice against media concentration. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, serves on the House Commerce Committee. He too has been working on media issues. Here is the joint letter they sent to Martin's office:

Dear Chairman Martin:

We are pleased to read reports that your office has selected Seattle as the location for the Commission's sixth public hearing on media ownership, although we are troubled by the speed at which you are attempting to complete the proceeding. We urge you to give at least four weeks advance notice before the Seattle hearing, in order to allow the public time to arrange plans to attend and prepare testimony.

At the Commission's last public hearing on its localism proceeding held earlier this week, it was evident that your last-minute announcement of the hearing on October 24, 2007 effectively barred many people from participating, and ran counter to the shared objective of soliciting broad public input.

Our offices have learned that there is significant interest in this hearing not only in Seattle, but regionally across Washington, and in Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. Individuals traveling from these areas, as well as working people and those with family or health care obligations, need reasonable advance notice in order to participate.

We appreciate your consideration in this matter and look forward to joining you at the media ownership hearing.

Sincerely,

Senator Maria Cantwell, Congressman Jay Inslee

I want to hear what readers have to say about the Seattle hearing. Your comments will be posted here at Daily Democracy.

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