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Public Statements

Letter to The Honorable Kevin J. Martin, Chairman Federal Communications Commission

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Kerry, Obama to FCC Chairman Martin: Delay Consolidation Vote, Investigate Minority and Women Media Ownership - or Place FCC Funding in Jeopardy

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) asked Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin to delay a vote on media ownership until the FCC has followed the will of Congress and established a commission to look into minority and women media ownership. Kerry and Obama made clear that if Martin once again bucked the Congress, they would ask the Appropriations Committee to deny funding for implementation of the rule produced by the forced vote.

"This is a show-down with an FCC Chairman who is letting the FCC do the bidding of big corporate conglomerates without giving smaller media outlets a chance to fight back," said Senator John Kerry. "I want to thank Sen. Obama for joining with me to help hold the FCC accountable, and ensuring that it promotes a more diverse, independent media in America."

"We must ensure that we have an open media market that represents all of the voices in our diverse nation, and allows them to be heard," said Senator Obama. "The FCC must meet its obligations to our country's minority communities and not special interests by ensuring that broadcasters are doing right by the communities they operate in before it considers loosening media ownership regulations. I reiterate my call to the FCC to conduct its rules changes in a transparent and inclusive process, respect minority interests, and delay its upcoming vote until further evaluations are completed."

Earlier this month, the Commerce Committee sent Chairman Martin a message with its unanimous approval of a bill that would require Chairman Martin to address the state of minority and women ownership as well as localism before acting on larger media ownership rules. By moving forward with Tuesday's vote, Chairman Martin is directly contradicting the will of Congress.

Senators Kerry and Obama sent a similar letter urging the FCC to act on this issue in July, 2006.

Earlier this month, the Commerce Committee sent Chairman Martin a message with its unanimous approval of a bill that would require Chairman Martin to address the state of minority and women ownership as well as localism before acting on larger media ownership rules. By moving forward with Tuesday's vote, Chairman Martin is directly contradicting the will of Congress.

Below is the text of the letter:

December 14, 2007

The Honorable Kevin J. Martin
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Martin:

Your testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee on December 13, 2007 restates your intention to move forward aggressively with a proposal that would relax media ownership rules with respect to the Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule. We reiterate our call from July of last year and in various forums over the last two months for you to delay this vote for a period of time sufficient for the Commission to examine the status of minority and women media ownership in the United States, and to establish a policy to effectively address the need to promote greater diversity in media markets.

With respect to this issue, the intent of the Senate Commerce Committee was made clear with its decision to unanimously report S. 2332, the Media Ownership Act of 2007. Section 2 of this bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish and convene an independent panel to make recommendations for specific rules to increase the representation of women and minorities in the ownership of broadcast media. The bill further states that the FCC must act on the panel's recommendations before voting on any changes to its broadcast and newspaper ownership rules.

We recognize the widespread animosity aimed at the direction of the Commission regarding Tuesday's scheduled vote. We understand that for a variety of reasons you are being asked to postpone the vote to permit more time for the Commission to fully understand how a relaxation in the Cross-Ownership Rule will impact other important issues such as localism. It is our hope that the sum of these objections will convince you to delay this vote until a time following the Commission's consideration of other pressing matters. Specifically, we believe that moving forward with this change will have a direct and detrimental impact on the state of media diversity. Should you decide to move forward with this vote against the expressed bipartisan, bicameral intent of Congress, we will approach Appropriations Chairman Byrd with a request that funds be denied for the implementation of this rule.
Thank you for your consideration. Should you have any questions regarding this request, please do not hesitate to contact any of us at any time.

Sincerely,

Sen. John Kerry
Sen. Barack Obama

Kerry and Obama co-sponsored a bill that would require the FCC to have a 90-day comment period on any proposed media-ownership rule changes and to conduct a separate proceeding on localism with another 90-day comment period. The bill also requires the FCC to convene an independent panel to make recommendations regarding specific rules to increase women and minority ownership of broadcast media. The FCC would be required to act on the panel's recommendations prior to voting on changes to broadcast ownership regulations. The bill was sponsored by Senator Dorgan, and also cosponsored by Senators Lott, Feinstein, Cantwell and Snowe.


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