Sanders hosts forum on FCC rules change

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(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders will hold a town meeting Monday night on a new federal proposal to allow a single company to own a TV station and a newspaper in the same market.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The issue being considered by the Federal Communications Commission concerns the so-called “cross-ownership” rule. Under current regulations, a company licensed to operate a television station cannot also own a newspaper in the same community.

The chair of the FCC, Michael Powell, is urging the commission to eliminate these regulations. Powell argues that the rules are outdated in today’s technological climate and that citizens have access to many more media outlets, including the Internet.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps disagrees with this approach and Monday night he’ll give the keynote address at the Town Meeting. Copps is concerned that the elimination of the cross ownership rule will lead to an unhealthy concentration of power:

(Copps) “It goes to the whole political and democratic small d dialogue that we have in this country. Are we going to have openness for a variety of viewpoints? Are we going to hear alternative news, have the opportunity to do so? Are we going to let 1,000 flowers bloom in the political market or are we going to just kind of take our chances and cede control to just a few people and hope that they live up to their obligations to provide openness on the airwaves?”

(Kinzel) The plan is on a fast track at the FCC. Chairman Powell has scheduled a vote for June 2. Copps is urging the FCC to hold additional hearings before taking a final position on this issue:

(Copps) “So it’s going to affect us and it’s going to affect us for a long time. And if we get it wrong, if we vote June 2 on the basis of the inadequate record we have now and just for the sake of argument, say we get it wrong, then my question is, how do you put the genie back in the bottle? And I don’t think you do because I think even as we are talking today, these big mega corporations are sitting around and saying, ‘Well, the commission’s going to vote on June 2 so on June 3 we’ll do this deal or make that acquisition or merge with so and so.'”

(Kinzel) Congress may also get involved in this issue. Last week a bipartisan group of 15 senators urged FCC Chairman Powell to bring any proposed changes to the cross ownership rules before Congress for review before the FCC takes any final action on the regulations.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

(Host) Monday’s meeting on the FCC rule will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the McCarthy Arts Center on the Saint Michael’s College campus.

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