Adelstein, TV Community Speak Out at Los Angeles FCC Hearing

Oct 3, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Speaking during a public hearing Tuesday on media consolidation, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein drew frequent cheers by delivering a lengthy critique of media consolidation.

Members of the Hollywood community also made impassioned statements during the first of six public hearings on media ownership, held in a packed auditorium on the University of Southern California campus before an often vocal audience.

“Since the FCC has repealed these [media consolidation] rules, the number of independent sources that provide prime-time programming to the major broadcast networks has decreased from 23 in the early 1990s to only two today. There is no justification for this,” said Mr. Adelstein, who holds a Democratic seat on the FCC. “Today, instead of directors, producers, writers and actors being free to share their creative talents, they’re being forced to integrate and promote products to improve the networks’ bottom line for Wall Street.”

The conservative majority of FCC commissioners kept their comments relatively short, emphasizing they were there to listen.

Chairman Kevin Martin noted that “public input is critical to this process.”

“I recognize many of the concerns expressed about increased consolidation and preservation of diversity,” Mr. Martin said. “But also critical to our review is exploring and understanding the competitive realities of the media marketplace. It is our task to ensure that our ownership rules take into account the competitive environment in which media companies operate while also ensuring the promotion of localism and diversity.”

The commissioners were followed by members of the television industry. Veteran writer-producer Stephen J. Cannell recalled how being an impendent producer allowed him to maintain his original vision for series such as “The Rockford Files” and “The Commish.”

“The ability to move the program [from one company to another] is what protected the content,” he said. “I hope you’ll preserve this so other young dreamers such as myself can have companies and survive.”

Representatives for the producing, directing, acting and writing guilds also spoke, several appealing for a mandate that broadcast networks should buy 25 percent of their programming from independent sources. The guilds made similar appeals during the last public hearings regarding media consolidation, in 2003.

Marshall Herskovitz, president of the Producers Guild of America, said television entrepreneurs have been turned into expendable employees.

“There needs to be a balance between the competitive marketplace and the local needs of the citizens across the country,” he said. “There’s no possible scenario that will prevent media companies from being profitable in the marketplace of America. There’s no issue of competition, no issue about being profitable.”

After the hearing, WGA President Patric Veronne said he was optimistic that the commissioners will consider the audience’s comments. “I think the commission will fulfill their duty to listen to the people and act in our best interests,” he said.