Friday, September 15, 2006


TEXT: Prometheus Radio statement about "buried" FCC study of localism

Link to PDF of "working paper" FCC draft report cited below.


Hannah Sassaman (215-727-9620) / ) has provided this statement from the Prometheus Radio Project on the recent revelation that the Federal Communications Commission's former chairman, Michael Powell, allegedly told FCC staff to destroy drafts of a 2004 study said to demonstrate media ownership concentration negatively impacts communities' access to locally produced TV news.

The statement includes a release on Philadelphia-area reactions and efforts from a Pennsylvania coalition that includes Prometheus, the Pennsylvania Public Research Interest Group, and Media Tank.

For Immediate Release:
Contact: September 15, 2006
Pete Tridish, Prometheus Radio Project at 215-605-9297

Prometheus Radio Project: Statement on Excavation of Buried Localism Study

A PDF of this statement can be found here:

Prometheus represented millions of Americans who asked the FCC to limit the ability of major media corporations to consolidate in communities across America in 2003. They led the lawsuit Prometheus et al. vs. the FCC, which overturned the FCC's attempt to consolidate America's corporate media. This statement was written by Pete Tridish, Prometheus' founder.

"A study has come to light that demonstrates a significant connection between local ownership and local news content in TV stations. This study alerts us to the possibility that further ownership consolidation could lead to the substitution of non-local news for local content.

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell made many statements accusing opponents of media consolidation of "fearmongering," and made many high-sounding pronouncements about the need for media policy to be rooted in empirical evidence. Powell also attempted to separate out the issue of media consolidation from localism, claiming that most of the millions of comments to the Commission stemmed from a concern about local content, not a concern about concentration of ownership into fewer hands.

Many of us know far more about what's going on in far away countries than we know about local issues in housing, health care, environment and education -- news that affects us daily. We can have the most direct impact on what's happening in our local community, but because of the economic structure of the news business, these issues are the ones we end up understanding the least. A remote, corporate owned media can undermine our participation in a democracy. And it's our democracy trhat these conglomerates are exchanging for mass-produced news segments that they can syndicate on hundreds of channels, nationwide.

Many thousands of Americans testified at "Localism" hearings and labored to produce comments for the "Localism Task Force." Despite the fact that Americans generated an impressive record of comments, clearly articulating the importance of local ownership in local content production, the task force has never released a report on what those thousands of people had to say, from Charlotte, North Carolina, to San Antonio, Texas, to Rapid City, South Dakota. Many believe that Powell developed the Localism Task Force as an attempt to divert citizen comment and evidence out of the media ownership rulemaking -- the docket where we could actually begin to impact who owned what, and how available our airwaves were for our local stories.

It is sad to see further confirmation that behind the Commission's empirical rhetoric was a willingness to suppress scholarly work whose results were politically inconvenient to the Powell Commission's goal of allowing unprecedented mergers.

In the wake of this revelation, Prometheus calls upon the FCC to re-combine the ownership rulemaking and the Localism Task Force, and to accept all the testimony received by that task force, written and verbal, as evidence in the new proceeding ordered by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the Prometheus et al vs. the FCC case. The Commission is required by law to consider all evidence presented in comments of this nature, and to refute any recommendations presented that it does not choose to implement. The addition of the evidence in the localism proceeding will do much to help inform the ongoing debate about media ownership. The acceptance of the reality of the inextricable link between localism and ownership can set the stage for a much better informed decision by the Martin FCC than the Powell FCC was able to make.

Millions of Americans formally commented to the Commission on ownership, and we were ignored. Now we know that the Commission's economists also found evidence that indicated consolidation could be bad for local news, and they were ignored too. We thought that our stories, experience and evidence, presented to public officials, counted for something in a democracy. If our testimony doesn't fit into the "what's good for General Electric, is good for America's media" mentality, it goes down the memory hole. We have every intention of continuing this struggle, whether through organizing, through continued litigation, through more demonstrations, or by conducting more research. The corporations have millions of dollars to invest in purchasing government policies that help their business models, but we have millions of people who have grown up in a democracy. We won't let a handful of corporations use control of the media to pull the rug out from under our citizens' ability to b!
e informed and make a difference in this country."

* * * * *

For Immediate Release:
Contact: September 15, 2006, 11:00 a.m.

Beth McConnell, PennPIRG Ed. Fund at 215-732-3747
Pete Tridish, Prometheus Radio Project at 215-605-9297

FCC Destroyed Report Favorable to Local Television Ownership
Local Groups That Fought Media Consolidation React to News, Urge the
Public to Comment to FCC On Media Ownership Rules Before 9/22 deadline

A PDF of this release can be found here:

A staff analysis produced by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in 2004 that showed local ownership of television stations benefits the public was ordered destroyed by senior agency management, according to a story by Associated Press reporter John Dunbar. The report was written shortly after the FCC voted to relax media ownership rules in 2003, despite receiving over 3 million public comments in opposition to the plan.

Local groups that played a key role in the media ownership battle reacted by reminding the public they have another chance to show opposition to media consolidation. The FCC is accepting public comment until Friday, September 22nd on new changes to media ownership rules.

"First, the FCC ignored public support for local media. Then, the agency ignored its own research showing local media ownership is in the public interest. Now, the FCC has the opportunity to change course and reject the weakening of media ownership limits," said Beth McConnell, Director of PennPIRG Education Fund. State PIRGs across the country, including PennPIRG Education Fund, helped thousands of citizens submit comments to the FCC in opposition to media consolidation in 2003.

"This study alerts us to the possibility that further ownership consolidation could lead to the substitution of non-local news for local content. A remote, corporate owned media can undermine our participation in a democracy," said Pete Tridish, founder of Philadelphia-based Prometheus Radio Project. Prometheus Radio Project led the fight that ultimately overturned the FCC's weakened media ownership limits. When the Commission ignored the millions of comments Americans filed againstthe planned deregulatory package, Prometheus challenged the economic arguments the Commission put forward in court, as the lead plaintiffs in Prometheus et al V. Federal Communications Commission. Ultimately, the Philadelphia-based Third District Court of Appeals ruled in Prometheus' favor in the summer of 2004, forcing the Commission to revisit the agency's rules.

In its attempt to reconsider media ownership limits, FCC opened a new public comment period in June 2006. Concerned citizens have until Friday, September 22nd to again urge the FCC to reject weakening of media ownership limits. PennPIRG Education Fund has created an on-line comment form at to make submitting comments to the FCC easy.

According to news reports, the FCC staff analysis showed local ownership of television stations adds almost five and one-half minutes of total news to broadcasts and more than three minutes of "on-location" news. The conclusion is at odds with FCC arguments made when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market. It was part of a broader decision relaxing ownership rules. PennPIRG Education Fund, Prometheus Radio Project, MediaTank and others are part of the Media and Democracy Coalition, which was launched this summer to promote policies that reduce media concentration, ensure open and non-discriminatory access across platforms, and provide access to the communications infrastructure that is so critical to modern life in communities of all income levels and in all parts of the country. For a complete list of coalition members, visit

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