Primer on the Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005 (MORA)

Posted by Bernie - July 31, 2005 (entry 341)

H.R. 3302, July 14, 2005
Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005 (MORA)

Sponsors: Maurice Hinchey (D - NY) and Diane Watson (D - CA)

The bill’s purpose is to

a. provide specific measures to keep the public informed of the degree to which commercial broadcasting stations are meeting specific conditions of accountability,

b. restore fairness in broadcasting by placing restrictions on monopoly ownership, rolling back the deregulation rules passed on June 2, 2003, and requiring that specific proportions of prime time programming be independently produced

c. promote diversity, localism, and competition by beefing up measures to ensure that a constructive dialogue takes place between community and broadcaster into the future.

Although 80% of American homes receive cable and 70% have internet access, only 5 companies control all broadcast television stations and 90% of the top 50 cable networks, as well as produce 75% of all prime time programming. The companies that own most of the popular newspapers also own 85% of the top 20 internet news sites. Americans continue to rely heavily on traditional news sources like television, newspapers, and radio, but two thirds of the newspapers in this country have disappeared since 1975, one third of the independent television stations have done so, and there has been a 34% decline in the number of radio station owners since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed. In addition, independently produced pilots on the four national television networks dropped from 87% in 1990 to 22% in 2002.

The Bill
In 1945 the Supreme Court ruled that “the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society.” The bill provides the means to fulfill this objective.

The Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005 would

a. deny commercial cable broadcasting licenses to applicants who own a cable system whose service area overlaps the area served by the license,

b. deny commercial satellite broadcasting licenses to applicants who own a satellite carrier providing service to customers in the area served by the license.

c. give companies that are not in compliance one year to divest themselves of license until they are in compliance

d. invalidate most of the Federal Communication Commission rules that were adopted on June 2, 2003

e. provide for a review procedure to assess, every 3 years, how well the proposed ownership regulations promote the objectives of the bill, and to suggest any changes to advance those objectives

f. require each recipient of a broadcast license to make available every two years, free of charge, a report on how the broadcaster is meeting the specific conditions of the license

g. require such license recipients to hold public hearings twice a year, during which the community serviced by the broadcaster can voice concerns, and to publish the transcript of these hearings

h. restrict the proportion of network video programming for prime time viewing that is network produced to 60% for the four largest television networks, and to higher thresholds for other networks.

Public Interest Reports
If the bill passes, broadcasters would be required to provide Public Interest Reports, which would include, in the words of the bill,

(i) the broadcaster's attempts to ascertain and satisfy local community needs;

(ii) the broadcaster's use of public service announcements;

(iii) the level and variety of the broadcaster's children's programming and the extent of the broadcaster's restraint from improper commercial advertising during children's programming; and

(iv) the level and variety of the broadcaster's nonentertainment programming, particularly public affairs programming;

(v) the broadcaster's proposals for future programming; and

(vi) the broadcaster's coverage of issues important to its local communities, and how that coverage reflects the diverse interests and viewpoints of that local community.

Cosponsors in the House: Lee, Woolsey, Kaptur, Slaughter, Moran of VA, Waters, Stark, Filner, Defazio, Solis, McDermott, Hastings of FL, Owens, Sanders.

For Complete Bill:

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