Jackson Slams XM-Sirius Merger

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition founder the Rev. Jesse Jackson attacked broadcast consolidation Wednesday, but he also handed TV stations more ammunition in their fight against the merger of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.

At a Federal Communications Commission hearing Wednesday on the effects of consolidation on media ownership, Jackson echoed his long-standing complaints about the lack of minority ownership and his belief that it is a civil-rights issue, with consolidated media controlling the social agenda by deciding what is important to report on.

Jackson said the media regulation process was broken and corrupt, and it was time to democratize the way the FCC does business. It is not enough to let people speak at hearings, he added -- the commission must listen and act, but not rush toward more consolidation.

Jackson asked FCC Chairman Kevin Martin again whether he would create a minority media task force and get its recommendations before revising media ownership rules. Martin made no promised, and didn't seem prepared to create such a task force himself. Martin instead said he would welcome input from such a task force, but that he would not necessarily delay moving forward on ownership review until he got that input.

Jackson also advised the commission not to rush toward approving the XM-Sirius merger, saying it would create a monopoly, with competition "virtually impossible."

Jackson said that as currently structured, the merger would "have the real potential of eliminating diversity.” He called it a bad deal and not in the public interest.

Also weighing in on the diversity issue was Wade Henderson from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights  He said his group favored the free market of ideas, but he decried "homogenized, cookie-cutter media divorced from local concerns" and not serving the public interest. Echoing Jackson, Henderson said media diversity is a civil-rights issue, adding that nothing less than equal opportunity in the public domain is at stake.

Earlier in the hearing, FCC commissioner Robert McDowell said he had once interned at radio stations WTOP and WMAL in Washington, D.C. Putting a fine point on his civil-rights argument, Henderson, who is African American, said he would have liked to intern there, too, but he would not have been able to. The way the media reports stories is directly related to who is employed there, he added.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.