20071218

From CWA release: Information Unions Slam Newspaper-Broadcast Ownership Rule

Washington, D.C. – The Communications Workers of America, its newspaper and broadcast sectors, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists expressed disappointment over the Federal Communications Commission’s revisions to the newspaper-broadcast ownership rule. The changes will allow a single corporation to own both a broadcast and newspaper operation in the 20 largest media markets.

CWA and affiliates -- The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA -- along with AFTRA, expressed strong concern that the FCC did not require that any merged newspaper-broadcast operation maintain separate newsroom and editorial staff, an addition that would have helped to ensure an independent editorial voice in communities. They also stressed that ensuring a diverse media is more critical than ever in today’s environment and raised concerns about the impact of consolidation on competition, diversity of opinion and quality jobs.

TNG-CWA President Linda Foley said more, not fewer safeguards are needed to promote media diversity. In the United States, local television and newspaper media markets already are highly concentrated, and most cities are one-newspaper towns, she said. “Today, most Americans get their news from local sources. The FCC’s action means that fewer distinct, local media voices will be available as news sources for citizens. Particularly in markets that already are highly concentrated and these changes fail to protect the public interest,” she said.

“Our members know what happens when one company owns more than one TV station or a major TV station and the monopoly newspaper in the same market. The owner merges operations, slashes jobs, and reduces the quantity and quality of the news,” said John Clark, president of NABET-CWA.

“As the ownership rules are relaxed, we will see even further consolidation and editorial control by just a few corporations,” said Tom Carpenter, AFTRA General Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs. Carpenter noted that when the newspaper-broadcast ownership rule was first adopted, the FCC stressed that was “essential to a democracy that its electorate be informed and have access to divergent viewpoints on controversial issues” and that it was “unrealistic to expect true diversity from a commonly owned station-newspaper combination.”

“This rule change is contrary to the FCC’s mandate to safeguard diversity of local voices and the public interest,” he said.

The unions had called on the FCC to provide a full public review of the proposed rule, including a 90-day comment period as well as an open process to resolve issues of localism and women’s and minority ownership of broadcast media.