If FCC chair Kevin Martin thought he could depress turnout at tonight’s public hearing on media consolidation by scheduling it with only five days notice, he shouldn’t have located it in Seattle. By 7PM, Town Hall’s 800-seat auditorium was comfortably full, with more people still streaming in. Even now, over three hours into the proceedings a large crowd remains, with many more people milling about downstairs. I think it a safe bet to estimate that over 1200 people will have come through the doors by the end of the night.
The audience is not only large, but extremely enthusiastic, and almost entirely opposed to the FCC’s proposed rules loosening limits on cross ownership and consolidation. It is also (gasp) bipartisan. The meeting opened with live statements from Gov. Chris Gregoire, AG Rob McKenna, state auditor Brian Sonntag, and KC councilmember Reagan Dunn, plus prerecorded statements from Sen. Maria Cantwell, Rep. Jay Inslee and Rep. Dave Reichert. Needless to say, all opposed the rule changes. A panel of speakers including Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen and KVI radio personality John Carlson also spoke to the commission, and again, overwhelmingly against the rules. Indeed, the only speakers the FCC could find to support further media consolidation were a handful of representatives from media companies that would benefit from the rule changes.
Meanwhile, over 251 audience members have already signed up for a two minute speaking slot — if everybody gets their turn we’ll be here for another eight hours! And of the dozens of concerned citizens who have already spoken, only one has argued in support of loosening ownership rules… my colleague and KTTH morning host, David Boze. (Talk about a brown nose. I sure hope that’s not what it takes to get ahead in today’s corporate-owned media, because if it is, I’m screwed.) Each speaker (except for Boze) has been thanked with loud and boisterous applause, a level of enthusiasm all the more amazing considering we all realize that the Republican majority on the FCC has already written the rules and made their decision, and that this whole hearing is little more than show.
I’m not sure how long I’ll stick around, but I’ll certainly post more later….
I gotta admit, I couldn’t sit through the whole thing, so I went out for a drink, but I just got back, and it’s still going strong… maybe 200 people still sitting in the audience, more than seven hours later. Amazing. Over 280 concerned citizens signed up for their two minutes to speak, but they’re planning to shut things down at midnight. According to Andrew, who’s been live blogging the whole time, only a couple people have spoken in favor of loosening the ownership rules.
You can argue the merits of the proposed rule changes all you want, but one thing is absolutely clear from this FCC hearing… the public is overwhelmingly opposed. Nearly unanimously. This whole hearing may be a farce, but if so, the people here tonight are playing their roles with passion and verve.