Common Cause laid out its proposals for media reforms under a new administration.
In a new report, "Media and Democracy in America Today: A Reform Plan for a New Administration," the Common Cause Education Foundation said the key to reform is reversing the media consolidation that it said has negatively impacted news and localism.
But Common Cause added that the first step can't wait for a new administration. It urged Congress to pass Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) resolution of disapproval, which would nullify the Federal Communications Commission's decision last December to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule.
That resolution passed by a voice vote in the Senate, but it has not passed in the House. The rule change was also taken to court by both sides of the debate -- activists because any more deregulation is too much, broadcasters because it only loosened rather than scrapped the ban and because the FCC did not raise ownership caps on stations in a market.
President Bush would likely veto the resolution.
As for a new administration, Common Cause wants it to push for an overhaul of the Telecommunications Act of 1991 with an eye toward "a new focus on promoting diversity and true competition and preventing consolidation."
The group also wants the government to mandate three hours per week of civic or electoral programming, as it does for educational children's programming, and to be more specific about what broadcasters’ public-interest obligations are, particularly now that the digital-TV transition is opening up more spectrum for broadcaster use.
The platform also includes free airtime for candidates; more specific policies for helping women and minorities to own more media outlets; network-neutrality legislation; a more securely funded and transparently nonpartisan public-broadcasting system; and a raft of DTV-transition-related proposals from more funding to more education.
To review the platform, click here.