Five business days is not enough lead time to schedule a dentist's appointment, or even to get your show listed in this paper, let alone to inform the entire population of the Pacific Northwest of their only opportunity to publicly sound off on the most sweeping media ownership rule changes proposed in a decade. Yet five business days is exactly the notice that Bush-nominated Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin gave us when he announced on Friday, November 2, that the final of six FCC public hearings taking place around the country on the hot-button issue of media consolidation and localism is to be held on Friday, November 9 at Town Hall Seattle from 4-11 pm.

As Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, the bipartisan FCC's Democratic commissioners (and those most vocally opposed to the conglomerate-enabling proposed rule changes), put it in their scrappy press release chiding Martin for his bad faith effort: "A hearing with only five days notice is no nirvana for Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. This smells like mean spirit."

Unfortunately, the FCC's politically expedient disregard for procedure and public opinion is nothing new; nor are the rule changes on the table themselves.

Back in 2003—in spite of literally millions of negative comments from the public and a broad resistance that brought together such unnatural allies as National Organization for Women and the National Rifle Association—the previous FCC chairman put forward, and then pushed through, a set of rule changes that promised to continue the media deregulation begun in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that made homogenizing corporate media juggernauts like Clear Channel possible by granting them the freedom to own a far greater quantity of television and radio stations than had previously been allowed. However, because the FCC failed to observe the proper process for soliciting public feedback, a federal appeals court struck the new rules down. The FCC then essentially said "do-over," reinitiating the rule change process, which they have now once again "streamlined," apparently with an eye to sneaking these same revisions in before the '08 elections.

The FCC rule changes would permit a single company to own eight radio stations, three television stations, one newspaper, one cable company, and one ISP in a city the size of Portland. Studies have repeatedly shown that media consolidation leads to less coverage of all things local, from the news to music. While we have seen some small gains recently in local radio playing Portland music, we need more independent, community-minded, locally programmed, homegrown broadcast options—not fewer. This is a sentiment that the FCC and our elected representatives need to hear.

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