Standing Up to the FCC. (Comment)

Article excerpt

Even as he condemned the 3-to-2 vote of the Federal Communications Commission to allow media conglomerates to dramatically increase their control over newspapers and radio and television stations, Commissioner Michael Copps closed his twenty-three-page dissent on an optimistic note. "This Commission's drive to loosen the rules and its reluctance to share its proposals with the people before we voted awoke a sleeping giant," Copps said. "American citizens are standing up in never-before-seen numbers to reclaim their airwaves and to call on those who are entrusted to use them to serve the public interest."

Copps's comments are a reminder that while opponents of the media-ownership rule changes lost the June 2 fight, public indignation over the FCC process and the prospect of increased consolidation of media ownership may have built an army that can win the war. Mere months ago, few expected that the FCC would receive 750,000 e-mails, cards, letters and calls opposing the changes. Fewer still imagined that groups as diverse as Code Pink: Women's Pre-emptive Strike for Peace and the National Rifle Association would see the logic of Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein's suggestion that the "McDonaldization" of media would leave little room for dissenting voices on the left or on the noncorporate right. And no one dared speculate that more than 150 members of Congress would actively oppose rule changes promoted by some of the most powerful special interests in America.

When the FCC went ahead with the changes, Congress went ballistic. "The FCC has ignored the public's will and the public interest to enact a massive giveaway of public resources to a few privileged insiders," declared Senator John Edwards, as he and fellow Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry sought to outflank each other as the Senate's chief champion of media diversity. …