FCC To Public on Media Review: Screw Your Interest

Last month, a coalition of consumer advocacy, labor and professional performance groups banded together to petition the Federal Communications Commission to extend the time for the public to comment on a massive rulemaking that threatens to let today’s large media conglomerates get even bigger.
The coalition sought an additional three to six months to collect public input on the proposed hyper-consolidation effort and also requested access to the data the FCC used to produce a dozen reports which are (surprise!) mostly in favor of allowing more media consolidation.
In a curiously-timed Election Day notice, the FCC granted a paltry 30-day extension to the public comment window, making January 2, 2003 the new deadline by which initial comments must be filed. Reply comments are due a month later.
While that in itself is a slap in the face (apparently the public has no interest in speaking to this potential sea-change in the media landscape), the FCC also announced it will only allow on-site inspection of the data used in its media studies. This requires anyone interested in rebutting them to travel to the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The agency also released a protective order on Tuesday detailing the requirements interested parties must meet for access.
Why is the FCC making it so difficult for the public to get access to the data behind its studies on this important issue? Its news release cites the use of “proprietary information” and the fact that it does not actually own all of the data used to produce its reports – in my view, such data should be required to become part of the public record. If the reports are, why not the data?
Not only is it a lame excuse, but it’s one more example of how Michael Powell and the crew in D.C. have abandoned any tattered speck of lip service to any “public interest.” There’s too much at stake for the media industry to lose this opportunity. Hell, deals are already being made in preparation for the new ownership rules – mergers and other strategic alliances are already being forged – going through this process is only supposed to be a formality.
If the public were really involved in making the media rules, it might mess up the plan. Can’t have that here in the U$A, no sir!