During the open-mike session of the FCC media ownership hearing in Nashville Monday, the FCC heard from some angry Tennesseans on the subject of media consolidation.
One man who took the mike to register his complaint said he owned the only local station in his town after the others were moved by a corporate owners, who he called "idiots in suits."
Another sounding a bit like the populist Huey Long, spoke passionately to the commissioners directly about their responsibilities.
Are you here to listen and act? he asked, or simply to humor us. Is this an example of true participatory democracy, he asked, or a mockery?
You are public servants and we are the public he said, your obligation is to us, not a handful of corporations. We are concerned citizens trying to believe we matter he said, his voice rising as the background buzz quieted. "Don't make fools of us. you know what we think. You know what to do. Do not let us down."
Another speaker said the FCC was asking the wrong question. The question shouldn't be whether more consolidation should be allowed, but whether some of the existing consolidation should be rolled back.
But there were others who praised broadcasters, including one law enforcement officer who cited Amber alert success rates of 96% recovery of missing children, and another talking about the Children's Miracle Network, through which broadcasters raise money for young hospital patients.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin had to step out from the public session to deal with some commission business, he said, during which time a couple of the speakers pointedly noted his absence.
When he returned, Martin explained the absence and pointed out that their comments were being recorded.