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FCC Dems Fire Away At Consolidation

Aside from a brief stage-setter by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the commission Republicans used their opening statements at the FCC's Tampa media ownership hearing Monday to essentially say: "Thanks for coming and we look forward to hearing from you." The two Democrats, by contrast, took aim at consolidation at some length.

Commissioner Michael Copps, for example, according to his opening statement, put in a pitch for boosting stations' public interest obligations and for a proposal being floated by Martin to require stations to put their public files online.

"For starters," Copps told a crowd estimated at something over 300 people, "let's go back to an honest-too-goodness licensing system that doesn’t grant slam-dunk renewals, but stops to ask if a license-holder is really doing its job to serve the common good....And let’s do this license renewal every three years – the way it used to be – not every eight years like it is now.

"Let's also put what stations are doing to actually meet their public interest obligations up on the Web, so citizens can know how their airwaves are being used."

Fellow Democrat Jonathan Adelstein said consolidation was a threat to small businesses. "It is easy to say, “we need to own more outlets.”  But repurposing one local newspaper story on the radio and TV does very little for quality journalism, diversity and localism," he told his audience, "and it harms small business competitors, the backbone of the American economy."

Specifically under the microscope in Tampa, according to anti-consolidation group Free Press, was Media General’s combination of the operations of its TV station, newspaper and online outlets under one roof there.