Legislature passes resolution against FCC rules change

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(Host) The Vermont Legislature has weighed in on proposed changes in media ownership rules. The House and Senate passed a joint resolution asking the Federal Communications Commission not to relax restrictions on broadcasting and newspaper ownership.

Under the new rules, a single company could own more than one television station in a local market. A company could also own a combination of newspapers and television and radio stations in a market.

Representative Floyd Nease (D-Johnson) introduced the resolution. Nease says the changes would allow a few large companies to control the airwaves.

(Nease) “The public airwaves. The airwaves that are owned by taxpayers that are leant to these companies for the public interest are now really being hijacked.”

(Host) Nease says under the new rules there will be less local access to the airwaves. He cites Minot, North Dakota where one company, Clear Channel, owns all six radio stations. Early last year, there was a dangerous ammonia spill in Minot and local public safety officials tried to issue an alert over the airwaves.

(Nease) “But it wasn’t possible to get someone live on any of those six radio stations – they were all on automatic pilot when they tried to get the word out about the emergency.”

(Host) FCC Chairman Michael Powell says he favors relaxing the ownership regulations. Powell has indicated a decision on the rule changes could come as early as June 2. Two of the five commission members have asked Powell to delay the decision.

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