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   Behind the Scenes at the FCC: Access Counts

MEDIA FOOTNOTE:

Behind the Scenes at the FCC: Access Counts

A report by the Center for Public Integrity

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2003—The nation's top broadcasters met behind closed doors with Federal Communications Commission officials more than 70 times to discuss proposals to relax media ownership rules, the Center for Public Integrity found. “The private sessions included dozens of meetings between broadcasters and the agency's five commissioners and their top advisors,” the Center’s summary charged. “In contrast, FCC officials held five private sessions with Consumers Union and the Media Access Project, the two major consumer groups working on the issue, since the proposals first surfaced eight months ago.”

The Center also examined FCC employees’ travel records and found that, over the last eight years, the telecommunications and broadcast industries spent close to $2.8 million to send the employees (who apparently have no understanding of the expression “conflict of interest”) on 2,500 ostensibly “work-related” trips—junkets that no doubt were deducted as business expenses by the companies. (It’s not like FCC employees needed the trips; the public is already shelling out approximately $2 million a year for their travel as it is.)

The private schmoozing and special favors appear to have paid off handsomely for the industry: On June 2, the five-member Commission approved the controversial proposals 3-2, on a party-line vote. Critics fear the liberalized rules will touch off a major new round of media consolidation.

In its study, the Center also found that the nation’s three largest local phone companies already control 83 percent of home telephone lines; the top two long distance carriers control 67 percent of that market; the four biggest cellular phone companies have 64 percent of the wireless market; and the five largest cable companies reach 74 percent of US cable subscribers.

The Center’s study involved developing a first-of-its-kind, 65,000-record, searchable database containing ownership information on virtually every radio station, television station, cable television system and telephone company in this country.

To read the full Center for Public Integrity report, visit public-i.org


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This story was published on June 4, 2003.
  
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