September 21, 2006
The Honorable Kent R. Nilsson, Ph.D., J.D.
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Inspector General Nilsson:
We are writing to express our grave concern about recent revelations that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may have intentionally suppressed two important studies on the impact of media consolidation during the term of former FCC Chairman Michael Powell.
The reports in question were a 2004 draft working paper that examined the relationship between media ownership and local news coverage, and a 2003 draft report titled "Review of the Radio Industry." The first report concluded that "locally owned television broadcast stations air more local news than network owned-and-operated and non-locally owned stations, even adjusting for the number of stations owned by the corporate parent." This conclusion appears to contradict arguments made by the FCC during the agency's 2002-2003 media ownership rulemaking process.
The second report found that between 1996 and early 2003, the number of commercial radio stations on the air rose 5.9 percent while the number of station owners fell 35 percent. This dramatic evidence of radio industry consolidation, had it been publicly available, would almost certainly have called into question the loosening of newspaper and television ownership rules finalized by the FCC in June 2003. If one or both of these reports were suppressed because they did not support official FCC policy, such actions not only could constitute fraud, but also would run counter to the FCC's stated goals of transparency and public involvement in its media ownership proceedings.
We believe that a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the possible suppression of these reports is essential if the FCC is to be perceived as acting in good faith on media ownership issues by Congress and the American people. We urge you to quickly initiate a thorough investigation, as requested by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, to ascertain whether these reports were suppressed, identify the parties involved, and recommend any appropriate disciplinary actions.
Thank you for your time and attention.
DAVID E. PRICE MAURICE HINCHEY
TAMMY BALDWIN SHERROD BROWN
TOM ALLEN XAVIER BECERRA
JULIA CARSON JOHN CONYERS, JR.
PETER DeFAZIO ROSA DeLAURO
ANNA ESHOO SAM FARR
BOB FILNER RAUL GRIJALVA
LUIS GUTIERREZ DENNIS KUCINICH
JOHN LARSON BARBARA LEE
JOHN LEWIS JIM McDERMOTT
MIKE McINTYRE DAVID OBEY
DONALD PAYNE BERNARD SANDERS
JAN SCHAKOWSKY JOSÉ SERRANO
LOUISE McINTOSH SLAUGHTER ADAM SMITH
FORTNEY PETE STARK TED STRICKLAND
TOM UDALL DIANE WATSON
LYNN WOOLSEY NEIL ABERCROMBIE
cc: Chairman Kevin J. Martin
Commissioner Michael J. Copps
Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein
Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate
Commissioner Robert M. McDowell