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Friday, December 7, 2012

Media Note: Moyers and Sanders Talk Vermont Media Consolidation

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2012 at 12:09 PM

In their latest love-fest — I mean interview —PBS' Bill Moyers and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) take on new rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission which they fear would lead to further media consolidation.

Both men are up in arms about a draft proposal being circulated by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that would loosen restrictions preventing a single company from owning newspapers and broadcasting outlets in the same media market. Just yesterday, Sanders and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) held a Capitol Hill press conference to blast the proposed changes.

In their conversation, which will air this weekend on Moyers & Company, Sanders and Moyers talk about how media consolidation has already impacted Vermont journalism. Reading from a May 28 New York Times story, Moyers notes that Burlington's Fox44 and ABC22 are technically owned by separate companies, but are essentially a single entity. (Yet another company is currently in the process of buying both stations, as we reported last month.)

"That's exactly what I'm talking about," Sanders says in the interview. "I can tell you that when I was mayor of that same city, Burlington, Vt., and we used to hold press conferences, you would have four or five or six different radio stations showing up. And, you know, we'd be talking about the school board or the city council — local issues. Now if we're lucky we'll have one radio station showing up, and that's true all over the United States of America."

Here's a preview of the Moyers show:

 "The point is that the tendency of corporate America is not to discuss at length the real issues that impact ordinary people," Sanders continues. "If you owned a television station, for example, do you think you'd be talking about the impact that Citizens United has on the American political system when you are receiving huge amounts of money because of Citizens United?"

This isn't the first time the FCC has attempted to loosen cross-ownership rules. Similar regulations adopted in 2007 were thrown out last year by a federal appeals court. But proponents of the changes say the media landscape has shifted significantly in recent years, with online offerings providing sufficient competition to render the Watergate-era cross-ownership regulations obsolete.

One of the biggest backers of loosening such rules is Burlington Free Press owner Gannett, which runs 82 newspapers and 23 television stations around the country. The company already has an FCC waiver allowing it to own a major newspaper and television station in the Phoenix media market: the Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV.

Despite Sanders' and Moyers' focus on Burlington, it's unclear whether Genachowski's rules would have much impact on the Vermont news world. The proposal appears to allow cross-ownership only in the top 20 media markets. The Burlington/Plattsburgh market is ranked 97.

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About The Author

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz

Bio:
Paul Heintz is a staff writer and political editor for Seven Days. He wrote the "Fair Game" political column from May 2012 through December 2016.

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