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Why would FCC Chairman Powell skip his own hearing?

'Localism' forum may have started as a sham, but the people's voice was heard

Stung by Senate and court rejections of his plan to allow corporations to expand ownership of mass media, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell scheduled six public forums around the country to listen to vox populi.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Internet-savvy vox populists like Moveon.org rallied ordinary people to attend.

At a hearing in San Antonio Mr. Powell heard from those who really own the airwaves -- the public -- for seven angry hours. Before it could happen again in South Dakota, he ducked out of his own meeting. In Monterey last week, he was AWOL again.

Some folks get fired for missing work, but I think his absence makes perfect sense.

Why bother listening when you've already decided? In his letter inviting the public to the hearings, Chairman Powell concludes: "Over the last several years, the Commission's review of the media marketplace has clearly demonstrated that the broadcast community, at large, has made great strides in serving the needs of their local communities.

"I urge broadcasters to fully inform the Commission of the laudable steps they take in serving the interests of their local communities. ..."

Sound like an open mind to you?

Chairman Powell may have intended the hearings as a sham, but two other FCC commissioners are fanning public outrage over a broadcast media they believe serves their shareholders at the expense of us -- the air-holders.

The FCC is now revising broadcast rules. If you join the effort, we have our best chance ever to limit the media monopoly. (Two ways to weigh in: See Free Press' Web site and the FCC's comment page.)

We cannot afford to let a few executives control a business with the power to define reality, even were they wise as Gandhi. And Rupert Murdock, Michael Eisner and Sumner Redstone ain't mahatmas.

What do you think? Discuss it in The Coffeehouse.


A project of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University, Grade the News is affiliated with the Graduate Program in Journalism at Stanford University and KTEH, public television in Silicon Valley.

Monitoring the Bay Area's most popular news media:

Contra Costa Times

Knight Ridder

San Francisco Chronicle


San Jose Mercury News

Knight Ridder

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KRON, San Francisco

KRON, San Francisco

KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

KGO, San Francisco (ABC)

KGO, San Francisco (ABC)

KNTV, San Jose (NBC)

KNTV, San Jose (NBC)


Bay Area media advocates:

Media Alliance
Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at SFSU
Maynard Institute
Youth Media Council
Project Censored
New California Media
Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter
National Writers Union Bay Area chapter

Site highlights


The three-part series follows the rise of three Bay Area handouts:
• Part 1: At free dailies, advertisers sometimes call the shots
• Part 2: Free daily papers: more local but often superficial
• Part 3: Free papers' growth threatens traditional news
• See also: SF Examiner and Independent agree to end payola restaurant reviews
• And: The free tabloid that wasn't: East Bay's aborted Daily Flash


Lou Alexander started a firestorm with his original guest commentary predicting the company would be sold. Several other experts on newspapers have weighed in:
Newspapers can't cut their way back into Wall Street investors' hearts, by Stephen R. Lacy; Alexander responds
Humbler profits won't encourage buyouts, by John Morton; Alexander responds
Newspapers can't maintain monopoly profits because they've lost their monopolies, by Philip Meyer
Knight Ridder in grave jeopardy, by Lou Alexander...


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Unintended consequences: How Craigslist and similar services are sucking revenue from faltering newspapers. 9/13/05
Is CPB irrelevant? As Congress moves to cut public broadcasting funds, has CPB become obsolete in the modern marketplace. 6/26/05
The paradox of news: There's more news available and its cheaper than ever before, but fewer young people are interested. 5/12/05


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