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ADVOCACY ALERT!

Please contact your U.S. Senators by phone or email and ask them to support the Stevens-Hollings bill (S.1046)  and prevent large corporations from monopolizing the media. You can reach them through the Capital Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or visit www.Congress.org.

The NCC is not alone in its concern.  Groups across the ideological spectrum, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Rifle Association, Common Cause, Christian Coalition, Family Research Council and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, have all opposed the FCC ruling. 

New FCC Ruling Opens Floodgates for Corporate Ownership of Local, National Media; NCC Communication Commission Joins Protests

May 27, 2003, NEW YORK CITY -- The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 this week to allow a sweeping expansion in the consolidation of media ownership by large corporations.

Under the new plan, a single media company could own a broadcast network and unlimited cable networks – and the studios producing most of their programs – plus the dominant newspaper, the dominant cable system, up to three local TV stations and up to eight radio stations in each of dozens of local markets, providing a concentration of news and information control unprecedented in U.S. history. [See statements by the two dissenting FCC Commissioners, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps.] 

The new ruling came despite growing national opposition from civic, religious and industry groups, including the Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches.   The NCC's Communication Commission, in letters to President Bush and the FCC, cited the dangers of consolidation in media ownership as a threat to competition and to the exercise of democracy. It also warns that increasing network control over the nation's viewing options could accelerate the decline in moral values of programming and provide fewer alternatives in the marketplace. The full text of the NCC Communication Commission letter follows.

NCC Communication Commission officer Bob Chase of the United Church of Christ presented those views at an FCC roundtable May 27, carried on C-SPAN. Two identical bills in Congress – Burr-Dingell in the House and Stevens-Hollings in the Senate – seek to mandate a freeze of the ownership cap at the present level.



May 27, 2003
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As you know, there is a landmark proposal before the Federal Communications Commission to raise the cap for network ownership of local television stations from 35% of the nation’s viewing market to 45%. We write asking you to join with millions of your fellow Americans who oppose the FCC’s plans to further nationalize the broadcast industry in this way.

Congress has intentionally structured our nation’s broadcast system to serve the interests of local communities. When it placed the current cap on network ownership of local stations at 35%, our government recognized the importance of preserving the ability of local stations to reflect the values of their local viewers, and of encouraging the widest diversity of views and programs.

Under the provisions of the present cap, the national networks have extended their market dominance – and profits – by acquiring more and more local stations. At the same time, the moral content and quality of network programming has continued to deteriorate. As a result, many local, non-network-owned stations have refused to carry certain network programs because the content of these shows did not meet local community standards. By contrast, the networks have not documented one case where a network-owned station rejected such a TV program because of local preference.

The consolidation of ownership of local stations into the hands of a few large corporations has served to limit the variety of viewpoints speaking to important issues at both the local and national level. This becomes a matter of special concern when some of those corporations own both the local carriers and the network producers of the national news programs on which our citizens depend for reliable information. Allowing these networks also to control local news coverage makes for not only less diversity but heightens the potential for manipulation of public opinion. Continuing to concentrate this power in a few corporate hands could threaten the American democracy itself.

We join with Congressman Richard Burr and Senator Ted Stevens in pressing the FCC to keep the television ownership cap at 35%. We hope that you will listen to the voices of local viewers across America who depend upon our broadcast system to provide them with reliable, responsive local channels through which to exercise the American style of participatory citizenship.

Respectfully,
Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches

Eric C. Shafer (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), Chair
Ann Gillies (Presbyterian Church USA), Vice Chair
Bob Chase (United Church of Christ), Secretary
Larry Hollon (United Methodist Communications), Treasurer
Wesley M. Pattillo, Associate General Secretary for Communication, NCC

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