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New Coalition Formed to Fight for Consumer Interests

May 9, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Watchdog group representatives led by Common Cause announced Monday that they have banded together to form a new coalition–The Media and Democracy Coalition–to fight for consumer interests as Congress considers a major rewrite of the nation’s telecommunications law this year.

According to a report released by Common Cause, Congress’s last major effort to rewrite the law with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 provided widespread deregulation for the industry that was supposed to benefit the public by spurring marketplace competition for telecommunications services. But since the act was passed, according to the report, rates for cable TV have risen 50 percent while phone rates have gone up 20 percent. “We cannot have another decade of increased prices, declining journalism and growing media concentration,” said Chellie Pingree, Common Cause president.

Also in its report, Common Cause said 11 of the nation’s largest media concerns–Verizon Communications, SBC Communications, AOL Time Warner, General Electric, News Corp., Viacom, Comcast, The Walt Disney Co., the National Association of Broadcasters, National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the United States Telecom Association-have spent more than $400 million influencing Washington policymakers since 1997.

“Consumers and public interest groups must be given a real seat at the table or history will repeat itself,” Ms. Pingree said.