The Stop Big Media coalition is preparing to do battle against deregulatory ownership regulations, vowing to flood the FCC with millions of e-mailed comments on the proceeding, which the commission plans to launch June 21.
Coalition member Consumers Union is also sending letters to members of the House and Senate warning them not to believe arguments that consolidation, particularly the co-ownership of TV stations and newspapers in a market, is necessary for financial reasons.
Locally owned media can be profitable, and with 20%-40% profit margins, says CU. The group also argues that scarpping the rule banning newspaper/TV stations is unnecessary in the case of financial hardship, since the FCC has a waiver policy that can take care of that.
The issue has united groups from the left and right. The Parents Television Council is on board, arguing that the rise of indecent programming can be tied to Big Media, as is the Center For Creative Voices in Media. Though the latter has called the PTC-aided indecency crackdown a threat to "creative, challenging, controversial, non-homogenized broadcast television," it has also talked up a link between indecency and media concentration.
The FCC is preparing to review its ownership rules with the goal, at least from Chairman Kevin Martin and likely the Republican majority, of loosening restrictions on station ownership and remove the ban on newspaper-TV station crossownership.
That's what the coalition is afraid of.
In initially reviewing its rules, the 2003 FCC said that it was operating on the assumption that it had been directed by the courts and Congress to get rid of rules unless it could justify them. The coalition says it wants to make sure the commission takes a fresh, and even-handed look, rather than operating under a presumption of deregulation they argue is misplaced.