Protesters challenge proposed rules allowing media consolidation

Friday, May 30th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Demonstrators around the country marched, chanted and scrawled messages on pink slips urging federal regulators not to allow large media companies more control over the nation's newspapers, television and radio stations.

Thursday's demonstrations were staged just four days before the Federal Communications Commission was to consider eliminating many restrictions on media ownership in the same city.

Another proposal would raise an existing market cap that prevents any one company from owning a combination of TV stations that reach more than 35 percent of U.S. households.

In Los Angeles, about 60 people marched outside Clear Channel talk radio station KFI with signs reading, ``No Choice, No Voice: Reclaim Our Airwaves.''

``We're frozen out,'' said Karen Pomer, a member of the group Code Pink, which organized the protest and also rallied for peace during the war in Iraq. ``All of this is benefiting conservative voices.''

About a dozen people protested outside the Clear Channel building in Pittsburgh. Protesters carried a woman's pink slip scrawled with the words, ``You are canceled for assault on free speech.''

A Clear Channel spokesman said the media coverage of the protests is evidence that diverse viewpoints are not ignored.

``Americans today have more diverse choices for entertainment, news and information than ever before,'' said Andrew Levin, Clear Channel's senior vice president for government affairs. ``Radio is the only medium I know where the customer can switch providers at 60 mph.''

The San Antonio-based chain has become a favorite target for those who oppose deregulation. The company now owns 1,200 stations nationwide, including nine in Los Angeles.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has said the regulatory changes are needed to reflect a market altered by cable TV, satellite broadcasts and the Internet. If the FCC fails to act, outdated rules will be swept away by court challenges, he said.

A protest in New York was organized by United for Peace and Justice NY, an anti-war group. About 150 people picketed outside station WWPR and carried signs that read, ``Farewell Free Speech, We'll Miss You'' and ``The Airwaves Belong to the People, not Clear Channel.''

Relaxing restrictions on media ownership is opposed by the two Democrats on the FCC and backed by the three Republicans, including Powell. The FCC hearing was set for Monday in Washington.

Proponents include large media companies such as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which owns television stations as well as the Fox network. Murdoch is also seeking regulatory approval for his purchase of a controlling share of the satellite television service DirecTV.