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Media Ownership Knocked For Loop

The FCC commissioners got an earful in Chicago, everything from complaints about the lighting to an upbraiding for not paying enough attention. But it was the consolidated media they regulate or don’t sufficiently regulate as many in the crowd argued, that took the brunt of the public anger at the media ownership hearing there.

After deregulation caught both barrels from Jessie Jackson and Barack Obama, public commenters blamed it for everything from dumbing down content to terrorism and the war in Iraq, the subprime lending disaster–I couldn’t quite follow that one– mass murder and rape, the latter two tied to a lack of coverage of police brutality cases and the stereotyping of young minority women.

There were occasional angry outbursts but mostly a steady rumbling of discontent that helped push the meeting deep into the night and far behind schedule.

It was occasionally broken up by encouraging words about broadcasters, including from old friend Orion Samuelson, 47 years with Tribune’s WGN, who talked of service to the agricultural community and could have read the phone book and kept me tuned in to that wonderfully orotund radio voice..

But far more common was the complaint, sometimes shouted, sometimes rushed and earnest as the five-minute clock coutned down, that Big Media had drowned out or marginalized minority voices.

One local record executive called for a payola investigation, saying he didn’t have the six figures to pay what it took to get airplay.

"Stop the corporate mind from painting all our houses blue." said another, reminding me of all those wonderful covers of Little Boxes on Weeds (but that means I am getting punchy from five hours of media ownership hearing).

Anti-consolidation activists had worked on prepping dissenting voices for the hearing, providing seminars beforehand and helping with transportation, but others were clearly winging it.

One guy working from a script was Patric Verone, head of  the Writers Guild of America, West, who had the best opening line: "Greetings from Hollywood, where the sun alwaysy shines and celebrities are always not guilty."