With FCC Commissioner Michael Copps unable to attend due to a family medical emergency, fellow Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein Wednesday took the point on criticizing local broadcasters at an Iowa “Town Meeting on the Future of the Media" sponsored by Free Press and other media consolidation critics.
"We learned last night that people in the heartland see many good reasons to oppose further media concentration," said Adelstein in a statement Thursday. "We heard a lot of solid evidence that the area's media may be failing to address key issues of local concern."
"People decried the lack of serious coverage of the problems faced in their communities. They pleaded with us not to let it get any worse."
"The verdict was unanimous — from elected leaders, teachers, workers, minorities, nurses, parents and grandparents — people are dissatisfied their with local media outlets."
Free Press' Amanda Ballantyne, who organized the event, said that the criticisms from the 600-plus attendees (the Des Moines Register put it at 500-plus — focused on lack of local and state election coverage, teachers complaining of a dearth of quality kids shows, and the high level of commercials on radio and TV, particularly in newscasts (which are a local station's most lucrative programming category).
She says there was much criticism of what attendees said were news cutbacks at stations in the market, "a former anchor doing car commercials," for example.
"The message I will take back to Washington," said Adelstein, "is that we had better address the very real issues raised by concerned citizens of Iowa before we consider further media consolidation."
The FCC is preparing to tee up changes to its ownership rules, which were remanded by a Philadelphia appeals court. Adelstein voted against those generally deregulatory rules, as did Copps, saying there had been insufficient public input on them.
One of the things holding up the FCC's attempt to recraft them is a disagreement over how those changes would be vetted with the public.
Adelstein and Copps want as many official public hearing as possible, and have attended a number of unofficial town meetings and conferences on ownership sponsored by groups that want them to be more, not less, regulatory.