May 02, 2003

The presidents of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists urged the Federal Communications Commission to postpone issuing new broadcast ownership regulations until it held more public hearings and studied the effects any changes will have on communities of color.

NABJ President Condace L. Pressley and NAHJ President Juan Gonzalez appeared at a roundtable discussion held by FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on media localism, diversity, and competition. They both expressed concern that the FCC has not fully examined what effect relaxing the rules will have on communities of color and on independent journalistic voices.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has called the current review "the most comprehensive look at media ownership ever undertaken by the FCC." Yet, Powell has held only one public hearing and is set on deciding the new broadcast ownership rules on June 2.

According to a recent Pew Center poll, 72 percent of all Americans have no idea the FCC is considering changing the rules.

"The American people have not been adequately informed about the profound changes that are about to occur," said Gonzalez. "Chairman Powell should seek the widest possible public debate before promulgating rules that will fundamentally alter the media landscape in our nation."

Pressley stated: "Relaxation of the rules does not benefit the cause of newsroom diversity. However if the FCC is determined to make the change, NABJ feels strongly about working with the commission to assure as best we can that newsroom diversity does not suffer."

Gonzalez added he is also troubled by a May 22 report from the Center for Public Integrity that found that FCC commissioners and staff members have taken more than 2,500 trips at the cost of $2.8 million since 1995, paid mostly by the telecommunications and broadcast industries.

Chairman Powell has taken 44 trips, the most of any active commissioner, at the cost of $84,921, according to the report.

"Chairman Powell's handling of the proceedings has left the public with the impression that only powerful media executives and conglomerates, not the American people, have access to the FCC," said Gonzalez. "This will further undermine the notion that the FCC is serving in the public interest."

Besides NAHJ and NABJ, UNITY: Journalists of Color, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association and the California Chicano News Media Association have called on the FCC to delay issuing new regulations until it received more public input.

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