FCC RULE CHANGE ROLL BACK

 
July 16, 2003 -- The fight for media reform on the Hill has been energized this week by a phone-in campaign organized by public interest media activists.  Thousands of citizens from across the country called their Members of Congress and urged them to support FCC rollback legislation in the House and Senate. These efforts were well rewarded. In the Senate, the bipartisan Stevens-Hollings bill picked up five more cosponsors, Senators Bob Graham (FL), Hillary Clinton (NY), Jack Reed (RI), Saxby Chambliss (GA), and Norm Coleman (MN) for a total of 43 co-sponsors.

In the House, the Burr-Dingell bill (HR 2052) picked up 17 new co-sponsors (including 4 Republicans), for a formidable sponsor total of 166. The Sanders bill (HR 2462), picked up 17 new co-sponsors, including another Republican, bringing the total House support to 82. Congressional support for a roll back can be expected to rise substantially in the next two weeks before the Augus! t recess. The past three months have represented a sea change in how media policy is made in America. FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein estimates that nearly 2 million Americans have weighed in. Your active participation is the reason Congress may roll back the FCC ruling.
July 9, 2003 -- Referring to both the quickness and unusual political and public policy dynamic with which the Senate Commerce Committee took action on June 19, The New York Times reported: "Moving with unusual speed, the Senate on Thursday began the process of reversing the recent decision by federal regulators to loosen media ownership rules and enable the nation's largest newspaper and broadcasting conglomerates to grow even larger...At a time when Washington's major political institutions and federal courts have been dominated by deregulatory thinkers, [Thursday's] action in the Senate was remarkable both because of the pace of the legislation and the depths of criticism by Democrats and Republicans alike."

Now that the issue is on the agenda, Congress needs a big push. As Congress returns to Washington, MoveOn, Free Press, and Common Cause are urging Americans to flood Congress with telephone calls telling them to stop talking and start legislating. Why telephone calls? Because one phone call from a constituent equals scores of emails in terms of impact.

What is the relevant legislation?

In the Senate, it is the "Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity and Competition in Television Broadcast Service Act of 2003 " (Senate Bill 1046). If your senators are already co-sponsors, thank them and ask them to put pressure on the Senate leadership for an immediate vote on the legislation. We have 38 co-sponsors now. We need more than 50 to increase pressure on the Senate leadership to allow a floor vote.

In the House, it is Bernie Sanders' House Resolution 2462, the "Protect Media Diversity Act." It is the House equivalent of Senate Bill 1046. If your representative is already a co-sponsor of 2462, ask them to step up the pressure for action by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Ask them as well to cosponsor House Resolution 2052, a bill sponsored by veteran Democratic Rep. John Dingell and North Carolina Republican Richard Burr that addresses concentration of ownership of television stations at the national level.

Like June, this month will be a critical month in the history of the American media reform movement. Get it started right by contacting your representatives in the House and Senate, as well as key Congressional leaders, and telling them that we want diverse and competitive media that serves our communities and that provides us with the information we need to make American democracy work.

As the United States finishes marking the 227th anniversary of its birth, it is time to remind Congress of something that James Madison taught us a long time ago: "A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.

For more information on the issue, go to www.mediareform.net or www.commoncause.org.