Byline: Jim Landers
WASHINGTON _ The Federal Communications Commission is expected to relax media ownership rules soon and let broadcasters pursue more acquisitions. Chairman Michael Powell says Congress and the federal courts give the agency no choice: It must "validate or eliminate" the rules.
Without a good rationale, Powell said at a February public hearing, "I guarantee you that every one of the broadcast rules will be swept away in a court of law."
And that leaves the FCC between the weight of the government on the one hand and hundreds of thousands of people urging the status quo on the other, as commissioners head toward a pivotal meeting Monday on the proposed rule changes.
From rock stars to gun owners with the National Rifle Association, critics say that the FCC is giving big media companies a chance to buy out the competition and reduce the number of independent editorial voices.
"If the FCC gives a monopoly on all news and entertainment programming to a handful of big corporations, then we also lose the diversity of ideas that makes democracy work," said R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills.