Congressional delegation criticize FCC rules change

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(Host) When the Federal Communications Commission loosened media ownership rules on Monday, Vermont’s congressional delegation was quick to condemn the action. The new guidelines would allow a company to own more than one television station in a single market. They would also permit a single company to own television and newspaper outlets in a market.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Critics say the ruling will concentrate media ownership in the hands of a few large corporations and result in less diversity in the news and opinions presented.

Proponents say the rule changes are long overdue and reflect the fact that consumers have access to news and information over the internet as well as cable and satellite.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy says the new rules could jeopardize local control of media outlets as large conglomerates gobble up smaller newspapers and television stations. Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders says it’s too early to tell what effect the ruling will have on Vermont. But he says the effects will be sweeping.

(Sanders) “What really bothers me is if this decision goes into effect, you’re going to see towns and cities all over America where you’re going to have one company owning the local TV station, the local newspaper and the local radio station and that is not, in my view, what democracy is all about.”

(Zind) Under the new rules, same company ownership of newspapers and television stations would be limited by market size. Cross-ownership would not be allowed in areas with fewer than four television stations. There are currently five television stations in the Burlington area.

In a statement, Vermont Independent Senator James Jeffords called the ruling a “bull-headed approach.” All three members of the state’s delegation vowed to work in Congress to counter any damage caused by the rule changes. Sanders says that’s going to be an uphill battle. He says the Republicans who control Congress favor the new rules.

(Sanders) “On this issue I think the Republicans understand they have got a good deal.”

(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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