As Matthew Lasar points out, media activists are wasting no time reaching out to the public at large in order to educate about media ownership and listen to public opinion on the issue. Of course this happens while we wait for the FCC to finally announce the public hearings on the issue that its promised.
At least 2/5 of the FCC will be participating in two upcoming fora. Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein will be in attendance at one event scheduled for Aug. 31 in Los Angeles, and another one being held Sept. 7 in Milwaukee.
While FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is giving much better lip service to the idea of public education and input on media ownership than his predecessor, his strategy appears to designed to undercut the public’s power on the issue.
The deadline to file public comments on the FCC’s media ownership review is Sept. 22, and right now it doesn’t even look like any of the Commission’s own public hearings will happen before then, nor do we know if we’ll see any of the promised research reports.
Pushing the hearings and the release of the reports until after the comment deadline is a very good tactic for limiting the ability of the public to comment fully on the rationales that underlie the range of policies and rules up for review. As the two grassroots events make clear, public hearings are places for people to learn more about media ownership, not just make their opinions heard.
So I wonder if Martin’s strategy isn’t to be able to dismiss the thousands of public comments opposing further media consolidation by saying, “Oh sure, we got thousands of public comments, but they didn’t substantially address the issues and research at hand. I don’t think all the bad things that many commenters predict will happen, so I don’t think we need to consider them as a strong vote against loosening these rules.”
Rather than baldly keeping the public as far out of the process as possible as Mikey Powell did, it looks like Martin is being more shrewd by giving the appearance of embracing public comment, while simultaneously depriving the public of the tools to better inform their opinions until after the comment deadline.