Senator Jon Tester is standing up for local Montana news outlets and freedom of information in the face of potential media consolidation.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates interstate communications, currently restricts how many media outlets one company can own or control in a region and nationally. But the agency is considering allowing a region's major newspaper to also own its leading TV or radio station.
Tester says the change could ultimately lead to fewer independent Montana news stations and local media coverage, as well as fewer independent sources of information nationally. According to a recent Pew Research study, 74 percent of adults get their news from local TV stations, 51 percent from radio broadcasts, and 50 percent from local newspapers.
"When ownership of local television and radio stations is concentrated in too few hands, diversity is threatened and decisions are made by large media companies hundreds of miles away," Tester told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "We respectfully request that the FCC not proceed with its proposed changes without providing a clear response to these concerns."
Tester, who reminded Genachowski that the FCC's mission is to promote "localism and diversity" in the nation's broadcast system, also noted that fewer independent news stations would further limit the number of media outlets owned and operated by women and minorities. Women own less than seven percent of all full-power commercial radio and television stations.
The FCC previously attempted to allow more media consolidation in 2008. In response, Tester backed a Senate resolution blocking the agency's plan.