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National Council of Churches Declaration Before the U.S. Court of Appeals Requesting a Review of the Federal Communications Commission Rules
Expanding the Corporate Ownership of Local Broadcast Affiliates

In the
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States, Petitioner,  
v.  
Federal Communications Commission and the United States of America, Respondents.      

Declaration

    I, Reverend Robert Edgar, make the following declaration in support of the Motion for Stay filed in connection with a Petition for Review filed in the above-referenced action.

    1. I am the general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States (“NCC”), a community of 36 Protestant and Orthodox denominations comprised of 140,000 local congregations and approximately 50 million adherents living in all parts of the United States. For more than half a century, NCC has been involved in activities seeking peace and justice, addressing issues ranging from poverty and racism to the environment, family ministries and efforts to expand the diversity of ownership of the media. It serves churches through a wide variety of educational ministries and coordinates the production of national network television and cable television programs of religious interest.

    2. On this day, NCC has filed a petition for review and a motion for stay of an order of the Federal Communications Commission, In the matter of Broadcast Ownership Rules, Cross-Ownership of Broadcast Stations and Newspapers, Multiple Ownership of Radio Broadcast Stations in Local Markets, and Definition of Radio Markets; and Definition of Radio Markets for Areas Not Located in an Arbitron Survey Area; Final Rule and Proposed Rule, MM Docket no. 02-277; 01-235, 01-317, and 00-244 and FCC 03-127 (released July 2, 2003). The rules replaced the Commission’s absolute prohibition on common ownership of daily newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market and its restrictions on common ownership of radio and television outlets in the same market with cross media limits. The rules also revised the market definition and the way the Commission counts stations for purposes of the local radio rule, revised the local television multiple ownership rule, modified the national television ownership cap from a 35% national audience reach limit to a 45% reach limit, and retained the dual network rule.

    3. In the rulemaking proceeding which led to the new rules, NCC filed comments pointing out the likely deleterious effects on minority media ownership and diversity of media if the Commission adopted the rule as proposed. We pointed out several race-neutral methods of insuring against a decline in minority media ownership and asked the Commission for specific consideration of this issue in the rulemaking since minority media ownership serves the statutory mandate that Commission rules serve the public interest, convenience and necessary. It does so by promoting competition by ensuring that all sources of intellectual and creative capital are put to their highest use and because an integrated industry serves the public better and thus competes more effectively than a segregated one. Further, minority ownership promotes diversity because minority owners serve interests and address needs not served or often recognized by most majority media. We argued thus that minority ownership should be a necessary goal of structural ownership regulation. Indeed, for over thirty years, the courts, the Congress and the Commission have been of one voice that minority ownership must be addressed as a central element of structural regulation.

    4. The rules adopted by the Commission failed to give due consideration to their effects on minority ownership, failed to seek comment on key Commission studies about minority ownership and failed to include the attribution rules within the scope of the proceeding. Further, the Commission only mentioned, but failed to respond to our key proposals.  Indeed, the rules provide for greater concentration of media ownership in the hands of non-minority media giants, thereby decreasing minority ownership opportunities and diversity of viewpoint. The new rules do not provide for any measurement of the effect on competition, diversity, localism and minority ownership levels. Under the new rules, a single media company could own a broadcast network and unlimited cable networks and the studios producing most of their programs, plus a dominant cable system, up to three local television stations and up to eight radio stations in each of dozens of local markets, providing a concentration of news and information control unprecedented in United States history. The new rules permit and encourage a wave of private auctions of broadcast facilities, though few new entrants will be in a position to bid as much as in-market operators. After the station sales have taken place in the wake of consolidation, there will be fewer stations left for minorities to buy, especially in the case of television. Eventually, because the available broadcast spectrum is a finite public asset, there will be no more local station frequencies left in play for which small and minority entrepreneurs can bid competitively against the larger companies. Further, after deregulation which the rules adopt, many minority owned incumbent broadcasters will come under intense pressure from their investors to sell to consolidators.

    5. The rules adopted also promise a decline in the moral values of programming as local and non-network owned stations would refuse to carry network programs because of content that did not meet community standards, where network-owned stations have demonstrated a profound reluctance to reject such programs based on local market standards.

    6. The rules adopted by the Commission therefore substantially and adversely affects the constituents of the NCC, as viewers and listeners and as media entrepreneurs, and most particularly more than 18 million NCC constituents who are congregants of our seven historically African-American member denominations – the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, National Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention U.S.A, Inc., National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, and Progressive National Baptist Convention – as well as almost 32 million Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic and Asian congregants in our 29 other affiliated denominations.

    I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
    Signed and Dated: August 8, 2003
    

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