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Free Press Seeks $50K for Media-Ownership Blitz

Free Press is trying to raise $50,000 by next Friday to ramp up its fight against the Federal Communications Commission's planned vote on media-ownership rules by the end of the year.

With Democratic leaders in the Senate Commerce Committee telling FCC chairman Kevin Martin to slow down last week -- including introducing a bill that would force the FCC to put the brakes on a vote -- Free Press said time is of the essence.

The anti-consolidation group said it will spend the money to contact newspaper editorial boards; blast more e-mails and videos; ramp up its lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.; and even put canvassers on the streets to go door-to-door to get constituents to contact their representatives during the congressional recess that starts Friday.

The group was giving its members credit for pushing the Commerce Committee to schedule a hearing in mid-December with FCC officials. The senators want to send the FCC the message that they feel it is rushing a vote, and that the agency instead needs to first more fully consider issues of broadcast localism and diversity.

But the move also appears calculated to impede Martin's timetable for a Dec. 18 vote on revises to media-ownership rules. The FCC was scheduled to hold its last media-ownership public hearing Friday in Seattle, after which Martin planned to put out his recommendations for ownership changes Nov. 13, let the public weigh in and hold a vote Dec. 18.

But Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), the most vocal critic of consolidation on the committee, introduced a bill -- in concert with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and others -- that would require the FCC to have a 90-day, not four-week, comment period on those rule proposals and complete a separate inquiry into localism and diversity with its own 90-day waiting period.

Both Dorgan and Commerce chair Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said last week that they met with Martin to ask him to slow down.