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Press Release of Senator Cantwell

Cantwell Calls for Public Hearing in Washington State to Discuss Media Consolidation


Wednesday, August 02,2006


WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold a public hearing in Washington state on new media ownership rules. The Commission recently announced it would begin a new periodic review of these rules, along with a review of its controversial 2003 media ownership rules—portions of which were remanded back to the agency in 2004 by a federal appeals court. Cantwell’s request for a public hearing follows an announcement by the FCC that it will hold a small number of hearings around the country. Cantwell has long pushed for greater opportunities for public participation in the development of any new media ownership rules, and has fought media concentration that threatens the diversity of voices and viewpoints in communities throughout Washington state and across the nation.

“A diverse range of voices in America’s newspapers and on our airwaves is the best way to remain true to our core values,” said Cantwell. “Any talk of significantly loosening media ownership rules must include broad public input to make sure that any changes are in the best interest of all Americans. Washington state has a rich history of media diversity and creativity. Holding a public hearing here would give our citizens an opportunity to provide input at the very beginning of a process that will have broad ramifications. We can’t afford a hurried, ‘deregulation-at-all-costs’ approach to media ownership. Before it issues any new media ownership rules, the FCC needs to consider carefully the effects of removing important safeguards on media competition, diversity, and localism.”

In a letter sent Wednesday to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, Cantwell emphasized Washington’s place at the cutting-edge of the communication industry and called the state an ideal site for a public hearing on media ownership.

“Broadcast and print media ownership touches some of our most core American values: freedom of speech, open and diverse viewpoints, vibrant economic competition, and localism,” wrote Cantwell. “Washington state has a long and rich history of quality local news and broadcasting and remains on the cutting edge of content creation and delivery. As such, it would be an ideal place to hold a public hearing on media ownership.”

In June 2003, the FCC issued a set of comprehensive rule changes opposed by Cantwell, which relaxed existing media ownership regulations. Among other things, these new rules would have increased the national reach of broadcast networks and allowed unrestricted cross-ownership of broadcast and print media. In developing the rules, citizens living outside of Washington, DC had only limited opportunities to provide input to the full Commission. However, FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein did conduct several field hearings around the country, including one in Seattle at the University of Washington in March 2003.

The FCC’s controversial 2003 rewrite never took effect. In June 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit remanded several of the rules back to the FCC for further consideration. In June, during the Senate Commerce Committee’s consideration of the Advanced Telecommunications and Opportunity Reform Act, Cantwell co-sponsored an amendment to nullify the FCC’s 2003 rules regarding the cross-ownership of broadcast and print media. The Commerce Committee approved the measure. That same month, the FCC announced that it would seek further public comment on the remanded rules as well as initiate its periodic review of media ownership rules. Chairman Martin also announced that the FCC would hold six public hearings across the country, and Cantwell is asking the FCC to hold one of these hearings in Washington state.

[The text of Cantwell’s letter to the FCC follows below]

August 2, 2006

Kevin J. Martin Chairman Federal Communications Commission Room: 8-B201 445 12th Street SW Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Martin:

I invite the Commission to hold one of its public hearings on media ownership in Washington state.

In your July 24, 2006 statement accompanying the release of the Commission’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Media Ownership Proceeding, you said that “over the next several months, the Commission will hold half a dozen public hearings around the country on the topic of media ownership to more fully involve the American people.”

I believe the Commission is right to hold multiple public meetings across the country. If you recall, when the Commission conducted its biennial review in 2002, it provided an extremely limited “public” process for those outside of Washington D.C. to voice their opinions. But, given the great public interest and engagement on these essential issues, Commissioners Copps and Adelstein conducted several successful field hearings on media ownership around the nation. One was held in Seattle, Washington.

In March 2003, that forum at the University of Washington campus considered the impact of media consolidation on the news, music and entertainment, and localism. The hearing drew an audience of hundreds and lasted several hours. Nearly 50 people signed up to make public comments following the panel presentation and discussion.

Broadcast and print media ownership touches some of our most core American values: freedom of speech, open and diverse viewpoints, vibrant economic competition, and localism. Washington state has a long and rich history of quality local news and broadcasting and remains on the cutting edge of content creation and delivery. As such, it would be an ideal place to hold a public hearing on media ownership.

Sincerely,

Maria Cantwell United States Senator

CC Commissioner Michael J. Copps Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate Commissioner Robert M. McDowell