Sanders’ bill would undo FCC rules change

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(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders says he’ll introduce legislation in Washington on Tuesday that rescinds last week’s FCC decision. The decision allows one company to own a TV station and a newspaper in the same market. Sanders says the decision needs to be overturned because it’s bad for democracy.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Sanders believes he has a chance to succeed with this legislation because congressional opposition to the FCC decision cuts across party and ideological lines. Sanders says he’s fighting the decision because he believes it will lead to a greater consolidation of media operations.

The decision greatly expands cross ownership opportunities for media companies. Essentially, the rules would allow a single company to own a TV station and a newspaper in the same market.

Supporters of the FCC decision argue that the old rules were outdated and that consumers today have many more choices through cable TV and the Internet to get their information. Sanders says this argument is false because many of the large media corporations also own these alternative outlets:

(Sanders) “People turn on a network on cable television. They say, ‘This in an independent network.’ Wrong. It’s owned by AOL-Time Warner, it’s owned by News Corporation, it’s owned by Disney. And the reality is that we have a small number of corporations who control the media in America, the flow of information, the entertainment that we receive. And as a result of the FCC decision, that small number is going to become even smaller. You’re going to see more media mergers and more media takeovers.”

(Kinzel) Sanders notes that it’s not just the liberal members of Congress who are opposing the FCC decision. A number of prominent Republicans, including Trent Lott and John McCain, have expressed strong concerns about the decision. And as chair of the Senate Commerce committee, McCain plans to address this issue in the coming weeks.

Sanders hopes to build a coalition of progressives and conservatives to pass his bill. He says this coalition has come together before on such issues as trade and the Patriot Act:

(Sanders) “And honest conservatives and people with my point of view, sometimes we come together. Neither of us believe that it is proper for the federal government to be monitoring the books that you are reading. We come from different perspectives, but the conclusion is the same on issue of trade on issues of localism. We work very often with conservatives, so we put together as it happens over the year many left-right coalitions. And on this one you have folks from rural America, conservatives who you know what they don’t want to see – one company controlling the flow of information in their congressional district of their state.”

(Kinzel) Sanders is hoping that Congress will act quickly on a number of bills that address the different parts of the recent FCC decision.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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