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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

FCC Mulls Change in Media Ownership Rules

Aired May 27, 2003 - 19:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to look at some thing near and dear to our hearts here at CNN, maybe yours as well: the news -- how you get it and who controls it.
The Federal Communication Commission is the government's watchdog for this sort of thing, of course. Well, next week it's going to decide whether to ease its rules on many newspaper, TV and radio stations and cable systems a single company may own. Critics fear this could mean just a few people will decide what you read and what you watch. Just a few people, they say, will set the agenda for news by deciding which issues we should be talking about in the first place.

A group called moveon.org came up with this ad to protest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

NARRATOR: Rupert Murdoch. He already owns, Fox network, Fox News, Fox Sports, FX, a newspaper, all these TV stations. But he wants more. So on June 2, Republicans on the FCC plan to get rid of an important regulation so Rupert Murdoch can buy more TV stations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, let's get the nuts and bolts of the rules and how they could change from Susan Lisovicz from CNN Financial News.

Susan, thanks for being with us.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNNfn CORRESPONDENT: My pleasure.

COOPER: That commercial, of course, sort of demonizing Rupert Murdoch. But it's not just him. There are a lot of people very interested in acquiring some media properties.

Tell us a little bit how this proposal would work.

LISOVICZ: Well, I mean, the basic rules are media ownership. These rules were put in place, most of them, decades ago when most of people got their TV information from three networks. So things have obviously changed with the growth in cable, with the growth of the Internet.

And basically, the public scrutiny is over two issues. Right now the FCC favors -- the FCC Commissioner Michael Powell favors an increase from companies that now own TV stations, can no longer reach -- reach U.S. households more than 35 percent of the nation. It would be increased to 45 percent.

And then there's some thing called cross ownership. Say a TV station in St. Louis can't buy a radio station or a newspaper in the same market. That would be eased as well.

Now we have seen some waivers already in New York City, for example.

COOPER: Right, and even in L.A., as well. I think the "L.A. Times" and KTLA.

LISOVICZ: And KTLA -- we have seen -- but those are exceptions to the rule. This would be changed to make it easy and big, big media companies would love to see this happen.

COOPER: Now they would like to see it happen because economies of scale, they think it financially would benefit the bottom line.

LISOVICZ: No question about it, and we see it in lots of different industry. You own and buy an asset and stay in the same market and you can eliminate or reduce the overhead.

COOPER: Right. So if you own -- if you own a TV station, a newspaper in a town, your sports department can be combined and the same sports reporters can show up in your TV station.

LISOVICZ: Theoretically and that's what has so many groups, Democrats, consumer advocates, the NRA -- it's a real hodgepodge of critics saying that what we prize the most in the United States is our diversity of opinion, is the diversity of analysis. It's why these rules were put into effect in the first place, to promote diversity and to limit consolidation and critics say this isn't going to happen. This is just going to enable these big companies to get bigger.

COOPER: Right, they say it'll be less diverse. But on the other side of the aisle, they say, Well, just look right now. You have more diversity and more option both Internet and on the cable and more options on your dial than ever before.

LISOVICZ: That's exactly what the FCC Commissioner Michael Powell says. He says, Look, these are unnecessary barriers in the changing landscape. There's no question that the landscape has changed with cable, with Internet.

But the fact is if you look at the properties, you'll see the same big players including our own parent company, that are in a variety of medias, cable and Internet and broadcasting.

COOPER: This thing comes to a head June 2. It's when the FCC votes. It's most likely going to get passed, but it's not going to end there. This is probably going to be debated.

LISOVICZ: Oh no, there's huge and acrimonious debate. But it is a five-member panel and you have three Republicans who are in favor of easing.

COOPER: All right. Susan Lisovicz, appreciate you joining us.

LISOVICZ: My pleasure.

COOPER: June 2 is the vote. We'll take a look. Thanks very much.

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