This hearing will focus on issues related to media consolidation, pending proposals to change the Federal Communications Commission’s media ownership rules, and government efforts to promote localism and diversity the media marketplace.
Daniel K. InouyeSenatorThe media is a tremendous force. It can inform, educate, and entertain, as well as nourish our democratic dialogue. Yet is also has less savory powers. In recent years, we have seen an increase in coarse and violent programming, but a decrease in local news and hard-hitting journalism. As our media grows more concentrated, we see less and less of the diversity of our nation. When programming is the same from coast to coast, we risk having our airwaves no longer reflect the rich mosaic of our country and our citizens.Given this context, I am very troubled by efforts at the FCC to allow greater consolidation of our media. As we know from recent history, this is an area that requires tremendous caution. Four years ago, the FCC substantially relaxed the rules that govern media ownership in this country. Millions of Americans contacted the FCC to complain. The United States Senate voted to support a ‘resolution of disapproval’ in response to the FCC decision. Next, the courts got involved, and the Third Circuit shipped the agency’s handiwork right back to the FCC.So we are back at square one. The FCC is poised to review its media ownership rules yet again, and may take some action before the end of this year. So let me caution the agency now: rather than rushing to judgment on new rules, regardless of whether they are a broad set of new rules or modest changes, the FCC should focus on completing pending proceedings on localism and public interest obligations that have long languished for lack of attention. If rule changes are required, the American people deserve to be informed and provided a reasonable period of time for meaningful comment and discussion. I recently discussed these matters with Chairman Martin, and stressed my belief that rushing forward before the end of the year would be a serious mistake.Against this backdrop, we hold today’s hearing. It provides us with an opportunity to hear from our witnesses on the state of media ownership, localism, and diversity. I look forward to their testimony on this important topic.
I’ve remarked before to this Committee before about my experience with television as a father of five kids when I refused to buy it, until the mayor, who lived about three doors down from me, came down and told me that my kids were sprawled out in his living room every time he came home and why in the hell didn’t I buy a television. So, I do think we ought to keep in mind that it’s still a changing entertainment world, still a changing information world. Today, those kids could probably watch even worse things that I could dream of on their computer in their individual rooms. And we’re dealing with such change that whether video is delivered from broadcast signal or storage device or internet package, the policy issues Congress faces are very diverse, but we do have to focus on them. Two very important issues are localism and diversity. They are at the core of our country’s values and they should remain the core of our communication platform. But at the same time we need to understand that those platforms are changing. Just Tuesday, the latest numbers reveled the number of print subscriptions to most newspapers continue to decline. Meanwhile, internet advertising is soaring. I don’t think we know yet where that change is going to go and what it’ll mean for people who communicate, nor what it means for people who try to find ways to own the entities who provide the information stream. It’s my hope that our Committee and the Federal Communication Commission will look at all of the ways we need to pursue to preserve localism and diversity, and as much as possible, I’ll try to understand the changes in the marketplace. Thank you very much.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Alex NogalesPresident and Chief Executive OfficerNational Hispanic Media Coalition
Mr. Jim GoodmonPresident and Chief Executive OfficerCapitol Broadcasting Company, Inc.
Mr. Frank A. BlethenPublisher and Chief Executive OfficerThe Seattle Times
Mr. John LavineDean, Medill SchoolNorthwestern University
Mr. Tim WinterPresidentParents Television Council