Congress Pulls Fast One on Media Reform

All the hoopla and hard work this year in Washington, D.C. on the issue of media reform can now officially be declared futile. In the horsetrading sessions typical at the end of a congressional session, provisions unrelated to federal government spending get attached to spending bills – this allows controversial pieces of legislation to clear Congress with little fanfare and controversy.
Congressional allies of media reform incrementally ceded ground to the GOP majority controlling the horsetrading, settling for a single provision attached to a multi-billion dollar spending bill that would restore the FCC’s original television station ownership cap (prohibiting one network from reaching more than 35% of the national TV audience, down from the 45% limit approved by the FCC in June).
But back in the smoke-filled room this week, a “compromise” was reached – instead of restoring the original 35% cap, the “compromise” will prohibit networks from owning stations that reach more than 39% of the country.
Unfortunately, this is no “compromise” at all, as Free Press explains:
“First, 39% is not a randomly selected number. It just so happens that Viacom (owners of CBS) owns stations reaching 38.8% of American households, and News Corp (owners of Fox) owns stations reaching 37.8%. Had the 35% limit stuck, they could well have been forced to sell off some stations to come into compliance. With a 39% limit, CBS and Fox can keep their stations while NBC and ABC can substantially expand holdings. Second, the 39% compromise is a permanent solution, not an appropriations rider which would only have blocked the move to 45% for one fiscal year. This means that Congress need not have this debate again next year when the appropriations bills come up for renewal. More importantly, it will put pressure on the Republicans who have supported a permanent return to 35% to settle for 39%.”
But wait – it gets worse:
…the far more significant rule changes which permit cross-ownership and TV mergers within local markets have gone through virtually unnoticed. Failing a heroic judicial victory next year by attorneys with the Media Access Project arguing before the 3rd Circuit Court (which stayed the rules in early September), these rules will be implemented with very little attention from Capitol Hill.”
So…what do do? Transmitters, antennas and studio gear can be had for less than $1,000; if you’re willing to solder some of it yourself, you can put your own radio station on the air for less than half that amount.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government…