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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. E-mail Ryan
Posted by Ryan at 5:14 PM
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton missed an opportunity this weekend to speak out against media consolidation. According to The New York Times political blog, The Caucus, Clinton was asked at an event in Iowa if it was bad that Rupert Murdoch was allowed to own so much of America's media.
A real softball that Clinton could have smashed. Instead she gave a lame response about the consumer being hurt when choice is limited.
The questioner singled Murdoch out. Clinton did not in her response.
I'm not saying anything against any company in particular. I just want to see more competition, especially in the same markets.
Sounds as if Clinton does not want to single out somebody who has done fundraising for her and somebody who owns so much of the press in the state she represents. Murdoch owns the New York Post, two television stations in the city, and will soon have the Wall Street Journal.
Ownership matters, and needs to be major component of the presidential debate. Barack Obama and Joseph Biden has done a good job of addressing media consolidation, and other issues such as network neutrality. I wrote last month about both senators positions.
Clinton should take note. Media consolidation is no longer an obscure debate. She should come out against the FCC's plan to get rid of the cross-ownership ban. Better yet, the senator should champion rules that would not create a media environment that backs her into consolidation's corner.
Posted by Ryan at 2:44 PM
Free Press released an analysis today of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's proposal to do away with the cross-ownership ban. A quick reading of the analysis, which can be found here, confirms many of the positions The Seattle Times editorial page has taken on the proposal. Those positions can be found here, here, and here.
The Free Press analysis brings to light how Martin's plan will be exploited by media conglomerates to extend their reach by junking the cross-ownership ban. Martin is clearly hoping that by only focusing on cross-ownership the other commissioners and Congress will let his changes stand. This study strengthens the argument that Martin's proposal needs to be rejected.
Posted by Ryan at 6:00 PM
My blogging will slow, but not hault starting Friday. Work assingments and Thanksgiving will keep me from posting regulalry at Daily Democracy for the next couple of weeks.
Posted by Ryan at 1:21 PM
Tracy Warner, the Wenatchee World's editorial page editor, had an excellent column Tuesday. He does a great job framing Kevin Martin's proposed media ownership rule changes around a very local example.
Also worth reading is Harold Feld at Wetmachine. Feld, who when not moonlighting at Wetmachine is senior vice president of the Media Access Project, has a interesting and honest take on Martin and his proposal.
Posted by Ryan at 10:55 AM
Nobody is pleased with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's plan for cross ownership. No surprise that the public and consumer groups recognize the proposal as bad policy. I was somewhat surprised by the response from the media Biggies. John Sturm, President of the Newspaper Association of America, believes the proposal does not go far enough according to a quote in the Washington Post.
The fundamental issues he raises concerning the vitality of newspapers and assuring that local news remains available to the public in print and in broadcast are not confined to the top 20 markets. The radical and irreversible market changes that have occurred in every community since this rule was adopted more than 30 years ago have extinguished any basis for this across-the-board ban.
One of the strongest statements against the proposal came from Sen. Maria Cantwell, who as a member of the Commerce Committee is in a position to do something about the FCC. She said as much in a press release.
Again and again, Chairman Martin has attempted to ram through rules that will encourage media concentration despite the public's loud and clear opposition. I'm disappointed but unsurprised that after claiming the hearings were going to be a critical part of the FCC's process, and giving the public merely a week's notice on the hearing, he has released a proposal that ignores the over nine hours of testimony from Washingtonians barely 72 hours later. The chairman says he invites public comment on his proposals, so I hope that everyone will contact the FCC to let them know exactly what they think of this proposal. If Congress has to act to stop media consolidation, we will.
The two Democrats on the FCC also blasted Martin and his plan.
JOINT STATEMENT BY COMMISSIONERS COPPS AND ADELSTEIN ON CHAIRMAN MARTIN'S CROSS-OWNERSHIP PROPOSAL
Posted by Ryan at 3:37 PM
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is trying to look like the great compromiser. His proposal to allow a company to own a newspaper, television station, and radio station in the same market is much more narrow than what the FCC approved in 2003. The narrow approach does not mean Martin's proposal is any better than former Chairman Michael Powell's of 2003.
Martin's plan would allow for cross-ownership in the top 20 media markets, and would not allow for a merger if a television station is ranked in the top four in a market. The proposal does seem to leave wiggle room for cross ownership outside the country's largest media markets. The proposal allows the commission to make exceptions for companies that do not meet the seemingly limiting criteria.
Martin appears to be using his tough stance on cable to soften Congress on his wanting to lift the cross ownership ban. The New York Times had a page 1 story Saturday about Martin taking it to the cable companies, and pushing issues such as a la carte, and limiting cable companies access to no more than 30 percent of a market.
His offer of cable for cross ownership is flawed. The two are not related. It does not matter what shows are available, or what percentage of the market a cable company can reach for a newspaper to stay viable.
Congress should not swallow Martin's bait, neither should the other four FCC commissioners.
Posted by Ryan at 9:47 AM
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin has released his proposal to increase media consolidation. I have not seen the details, but a FCC press release said the cross-ownership ban could be lifted in the nation's top 20 markets.
Will be back with more after I do some reporting.
Posted by Ryan at 3:47 PM
The Pacific Northwest showed up in large numbers for Friday night's FCC media ownership hearing. People made the drive from Idaho and Oregon to join the crowd of about 800 in Town Hall. A good showing considering the short notice given for the hearing.
What I found the most impressive was the bipartisan message against media consolidation. Gov. Christine Gregoire's fiery speech was echoed by Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna, and Republican King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. The state's delegation weighed in via video. Maria Cantwell, Jay Inslee, and Dave Reichert all opposed changes to media ownership rules.
As expected, the crowd was overwhelmingly against media consolidation. The only people I heard encourage the FCC commissioners to loosen media ownership rules were the broadcasters on the first panel. I left shortly after the second panel, but would guess that the second round of public testimony was identical to the first round. Aggressively opposed to any plans to allow conglomerates to own more.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is expected to release his changes to media ownership rules this week. I cannot imagine he was swayed by the Seattle hearing. Hopefully the bipartisan showing, and the audience's passion can persuade one of the other two Republicans on the commission.
Posted by Ryan at 7:43 AM
I could not blog from Town Hall last night during the FCC media ownership hearing. There was WiFi, but I lacked a password for what was available, and did not have enough technical skill to work around the problem. I will write about the hearing here a bit this weekend, and Monday. The hearing was impressive. The panelists were fantastic, and the crowd's energy grew as the hearing dragged on.
Posted by Ryan at 2:47 PM
In case anybody missed the coverage this week, the Federal Communications Commission is holding its last media ownership hearing from 4 to 11 p.m. tonight at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, Seattle, WA 98101. This is the last chance to tell the commissioners your thoughts on media ownership.
I will be blogging from the hearing, that is if I can. Somebody at Town Hall said there is WiFi, but that the service is spotty.
Posted by Ryan at 10:34 AM
Now is a good time to become familiar with Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps. They are in Seattle today for the Federal Communication Commission hearing at Town Hall tonight.
Copps was the focus of The Seattle Times Close-Up page on Thursday and will be answering questions from readers on seattletimes.com today from 11 a.m. to noon. Copps wrote an excellent op/ed for the Democracy Papers in September.
Adelstein had a strong op/ed about tonight's media ownership hearing in Thursday's Times. I had a wide ranging interview with him in September that was turned into a podcast for the Democracy Papers. The interview can be found on the Democracy Papers site. It is the next to last item under the podcast heading on the right side of the page.
Posted by Ryan at 4:34 PM
The Federal Communications Commission released the panel for Friday's media ownership hearing at 4 p.m. in Town Hall. Full disclosure: I am related to Frank Blethen. He is my father.
Frank Blethen, Publisher/CEO, Seattle Times
John Carlson, Radio Talk Show Host, KVI-AM
Erubiel Valladares-Carranzo II, Technical Engineer, KPCN-LP 96.3 FM Radio Movimiento "La Voz del Pueblo"
Bernie Foster, Publisher, The Portland Skanner, The Seattle Skanner
Ray Heacox, General Manager, King Broadcasting Seattle
Elizabeth Blanks Hindman, Associate Professor, Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University
Diana Kramer, Vice President and General Manager, Puget Sound Publishing Company
Pamela S. Pearson, Vice President/General Manager, KCPQ/KMYQ-TV, Tribune Broadcasting Company
Jon Rand, General Manager, KAYU TV, Spokane, KCYU TV, Yakima, KFFX TV, Tri-Cities
Cheryl A. Salomone, Vice President and Market Manager, New Northwest Broadcasters - Tri Cities, WA
Abby Dylan, National Board Member, Screen Actors Guild Seattle
Bruce Fife, President, American Federation of Musicians, Local 99
Christina Romano Glaubke, Director, Children and the Media Program, Children Now
Joseph Orozco, Station Manager, KIDE 91.3 FM
Michelle Santosuosso, Former Vice President of Artist and Label Relations, Napster, Inc.
Posted by Ryan at 1:11 PM
Do not be fooled by Kevin Martin's boyish looks. Behind those little round bookish glasses is an intelligent political operator. That is the impression I got from a 2002 profile of the current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The article appeared in Cable World and was written by Alicia Mundy, who is now The Seattle Times Washington, D.C. correspondent.
Mundy shows how Martin operated on the commission before he was elevated to chairman. Martin increased his visibility and power by positioning himself as a swing vote that never really swung. A lobbyist who used to work at the FCC said as much.
Martin's being very strategic right now. He's not dissenting in ways the right wing can complain about. He is acting independently, but being careful not to be seen as an ideological threat to the GOP agenda.
The piece also veers into Martin's relationship with the White House. I wrote yesterday that media consolidation is not a partisan issue, but that this was something the administration was pushing. Former FCC commissioner, and Martin's one time boss, Harold Furchtgott-Roth said Martin is there for Bush.
There are few people in Washington with a greater claim to being a loyal soldier for President Bush than Kevin. He's always been there for President Bush at the commission.
Mundy's profile is well worth reading before Friday's FCC media ownership hearing at Town Hall.
Posted by Ryan at 11:04 AM
Daily Democracy has received some comments about partisanship and the Federal Communications Commission. The writers claim that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is pushing to change media ownership laws because he is a Republican. Take for example what Leon Schmidt wrote:
I object to the short notification period given for the Public Hearing in Media Ownership rules to be held in Seattle Washington scheduled for Nov. 9th 2007. This meeting schedule does not even give even the faintest appearance of soliciting comment from a concerned public and only appears to cater to companies and organizations that stand to benefit from expanded relaxed media ownership rules. FCC Chairman Martin is a guardian of our airwaves and it is a shame that a big business agenda tries to govern fair use of the public spectrum and the public's ability to weigh in on these issues.
This note has the feel of turf, but raises some good points, except for the claim that Martin is engaging in partisan manipulation.
Then there was this from Elliott Swenson:
There was a full half hour dedicated to this very topic last night on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal. FCC Chairman Martin may try to sneak this Seattle hearing in at the last minute, but it doesn't take long for people who have been waiting for a chance to confront this goof. More stations and newspapers owned by huge corporations? What are you a Republican? Oh right, Martin is!
This reads as if I am saying that consolidation is good. Yikes! Elliot is correct about Martin, though. He is a Republican, but that does not mean that Republicans are the bad guys on this issue. I believe this is more of a Bush administration problem, which by extension makes it a Republican problem.
Some of the leaders against media consolidation are Republicans. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both from Maine, are big on this issue. Snowe has joined up with Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., pushing for a net neutrality law. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., has also teamed up with Dorgan on media ownership.
Traditional Republican reflexes are for less government, and a distrust of big business. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, then William Howard Taft were the original trust busters.
We should not forget that the latest wave of consolidation happened with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 during the presidency of Bill Clinton. There was a Republican majority that overwhelmingly voted for the legislation, but so did nearly all the Democrats in the House.
Media consolidation is too important to be reduced to partisan bickering. An independent press is at the core American democracy. That should be enough to unite and defeat what really is a threat from the Bush administration.
Posted by Ryan at 4:25 PM
Twenty-one civil rights groups sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin today. The letter implores him to do something about the lack of minority owned broadcast outlets. The letter is below.
Dear Chairman Martin:
Posted by Ryan at 4:28 PM
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:
I want to hear what readers have to say about the Seattle hearing. Your comments will be posted here at Daily Democracy.
Posted by Ryan at 2:18 PM
The Federal Communications Commission has scheduled a media consolidation hearing in Seattle on Nov. 9. The hearing - which will be from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Town Hall, 1119 Eight Avenue - is the last of six FCC media consolidation hearings.
Posted by Ryan at 9:29 AM
There is an interesting story in the newspaper today about Oregon's reaction to the music recording industry going after students at the University of Oregon. The recording industry filed a lawsuit in August against 17 Oregon students for music piracy. This week Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers submitted court papers that would bar the university from identifying the students who illegally downloaded music.
Part of me understands what the recoding industry is doing with its piracy lawsuits. Musicians and record labels should be compensated for their work. The industry's problem is that it was slow to react to file sharing, and came in as a heavy once it recognized a threat.
The industry should be finding a way to work with fans and musicians instead of suing a generation of consumers who know no other way of interacting with music.
Good for Myers. The University of Oregon should not have to do the leg work for the recoding industry's lawyers. If the conglomerate record labels want to punish college students they should have to build the case. Not Oregon.
Posted by Ryan at 1:02 PM
The Internet's importance to independent musicians was obvious at the Crocodile Cafe on Tuesday night. I went there for Matt Nathanson's concert, which was billed as a Rock the Net show. I had never heard of Nathanson but everybody else at the sold-out show knew him. The young crowd sang along, lyric-for-lyric, and yelled out requests in-between songs.
How is a musician on an independent label like Nathanson able to sell out a show so quickly to an obviously smitten crowd? Through the Internet and a lot of touring. The Internet is vital tool of commerce and communication for a musician who is on the road for about 10 months.
Nathanson is part of a growing list of 763 bands and 155 record labels that have joined the Rock the Net campaign. Seattleites will recognize many of the names on the list like Death Cab For Cutie, and Conduit Records.
Nathanson was part of a teleconference for Rock the Net before his show on Tuesday. The teleconference highlighted why a net neutrality law is needed for the music industry. Nathanson explained how he has used the Internet to make a career in music and communicate with fans.
The community that I have built between my fans and myself, and the network that I built -- the lifeline of my existence -- is crucial that the Internet be free and clear for everybody to use.
Independent labels and bands could be shut out if service providers are allowed to discriminate against competing content or content not to their liking.
Luckily for independent artists there are a number of groups pushing for good Internet policy. In Washington, D.C., The Future of Music Coalition is working hard for net neutrality, and closer to home there is Reclaim the Media, which was at Nathanson show. Jonathan Lawson of Reclaim the Media manned a table with literature about net neutrality and the FCC's still not figured out Seattle media ownership hearing.
Nathanson made an effective pitch deep into his set. He pointed out that Rock the Net had a table by the entrance, and explained why net neutrality is important. He couched it as a free-speech issue that demanded the attention of the youthful crowd.
The First Amendment never really goes out of fashion, he said.
The message was not lost on an attentive audience. As the crowd squeezed through the exit a group of fans huddled around the Rock the Net table.
Posted by Ryan at 9:14 AM
There is a story and op/ed in today's Seattle Times worth reading. The story found here is about Wednesday's Federal Communications Commission's localism hearing. The op/ed found here is part of the Democracy Papers and was penned by Peter Hart. He writes about News Corporation's new business channel. Hart works for FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) and is the author of "The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly."
Both are good pieces. The localism story captures the disorder of the FCC, and its rush to try and change media ownership rules before the end of the year. I believe Hart is going to be proven right about the type of business reporting that will come from a FOX business channel.