Another victory! Chicago City Council passes resolution on Media Ownership

Posted by Mitchell - May 7, 2003 (entry 34)

From today's (May 8, 2003) Robert Feder column in the Chicago Sun-Times (on page 81):

* The Chicago City Council, which has sounded off in the past on Jerry Springer and Diann Burns among other broadcast bigwigs, is turning its attention to changes in media ownership rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission.

Ald. Bernard Stone (50th) is expected to sponsor a resolution today calling on the FCC to "protect the public's right to diversity in media content, ownership and employment" by prohibiting further media consolidation. The resolution urges the FCC to preserve its ban on cross-ownership of print and electronic media.

It's an issue of keen interest to Tribune Co., which is eager to increase its broadcast holdings in the market. Current regulations prohibit the company from adding stations here as long as it also owns the Chicago Tribune.

And the result: The Chicago City Council passed this resolution, 50-0.

Update: Here is the final text of the passed resolution:


WHEREAS, freedom of the press and public access to diverse media are prerequisites for a functioning democracy; and

WHEREAS, the broadcast airwaves are owned commonly by the public, and should be managed to serve the public interest; and

WHEREAS, the public interest is best served by the availability of a broadly diverse range of viewpoints; and

WHEREAS, media diversity is seriously threatened by further consolidation of media ownership in an already highly concentrated market; and

WHEREAS, deregulation of radio ownership rules under the 1996 Telecommunications Act caused unprecedented consolidation, dramatically decreasing competition; and

WHEREAS, radio industry consolidation has also damaged local commitment and content diversity, in part by shifting control and resources away from local programmers and towards central managers, which had led to reductions in local news and public affairs programming, thousands of lost jobs, and reduced access to the airwaves for local musicians, community groups and public officials; and

WHEREAS, a 1998 Benton Foundation study sent a warning signal with its finding that in Chicago, 12 commercial television stations devoted no more than 1% of their total programming to local public affairs; and

WHEREAS, the Chicago City Council supports competition, local commitment and a broad diversity of voices and do not support media consolidation that would harm the public interest and decrease the commitment of media owners to the local community; and

WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission is currently considering an unprecedented rollback of media ownership regulations; and

WHEREAS, the elimination or weakening of these regulations would further reduce competition, local accountability, diversity of content and voices, and the amount and quality of news coverage in broadcast and print media across the country while providing windfall profits for a small handful of corporate media owners;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, THAT WE, THE MAYOR AND MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL of the City of Chicago recognize that as citizens in a democracy, we require public access to a diverse range of media voices and messages in order to participate fully in our community's shared social, cultural and political life. We stand for regulations that serve the public interest. Unchecked media consolidation benefits a small number of corporate interests at the expense of the public interest; and

We urge the Federal Communications Commission to protect and preserve its ban on cross-ownership of print and electronic media and to strengthen existing media ownership regulations, including regulations that limit the number of stations one owner may hold. By so doing, the FCC will protect the public's right to diversity in media content, ownership and employment; and

We further call upon the Congress to exercise its oversight in the area of federal communications policy through public hearings on media ownership issues; and to pursue legislation aimed at protecting our democratic media by prohibiting further media consolidation.

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