NO. R-184.  JOINT RESOLUTION urging the Federal Communications Commission not to relax the current broadcast media ownership rules and to provide for a public comment period before the adoption of any rule changes.

(J.R.H.18)

Offered by:  Representatives Nease of Johnson, Amidon of Charlotte, Anderson of Woodstock, Atkins of Winooski, Audette of South Burlington, Bailey of Hyde Park, Bohi of Hartford, Bolduc of Barton, Brooks of Montpelier, Chen of Mendon, Clark of Vergennes, Connell of Warren, Deen of Westminster, Donovan of Burlington, Edwards of Brattleboro, Emmons of Springfield, Fisher of Lincoln, French of Randolph, Grad of Moretown, Head of South Burlington, Heath of Westford, Hingtgen of Burlington, Hudson of Lyndon, Hummel of Underhill, Hunt of Essex, Jewett of Ripton, Johnson of South Hero, Kiss of Burlington, Kitzmiller of Montpelier, Klein of East Montpelier, Lippert of Hinesburg, Maier of Middlebury, Marek of Newfane, Marron of Stowe, Martin of Springfield, Masland of Thetford, McCullough of Williston, McLaughlin of Royalton, Miller of Shaftsbury, Miller of Elmore, Molloy of Arlington, Nitka of Ludlow, Obuchowski of Rockingham, Pelham of Calais, Pillsbury of Brattleboro, Pugh of South Burlington, Reese of Pomfret, Rodgers of Glover, Rusten of Halifax, Shand of Weathersfield, Sharpe of Bristol, Smith of Morristown, Sweaney of Windsor, Tracy of Burlington, Trombley of Grand Isle, Wright of Burlington and Zuckerman of Burlington.

Whereas, pursuant to the provisions of 47 C.F.R. § 73.3555, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established a series of ownership rules for radio and television stations in a designated market area (DMA), and

Whereas, these rules were intended to prevent a monopolization of media voices within a community, and

Whereas, over the last several decades, the number of commercial radio stations a single entity may own in a DMA has risen dramatically, from the former universal limit of one AM and one FM, to, depending on the total number of local radio stations in the DMA, as many as eight, with no more than five on either the AM or FM broadcast band, and

Whereas, the number of local television stations a single entity may own in a DMA has risen from one to two, depending on technical considerations, and nationally, the number has risen from a total of 7 - 35 percent of the aggregate national audience, and

Whereas, the significant relaxation of multiple broadcast media ownership restrictions has led to the creation of a small number of national media conglomerates, including Viacom (owner of CBS), General Electric (owner of NBC), Disney (owner of ABC), and Clear Channel Communications, each of which owns large numbers of broadcast stations, often including multiple radio stations in the same DMA in addition to national programming services, and

Whereas, this concentration in the corporate ownership of commercial broadcast media, both locally and nationally, has severely limited the diversity of perspectives offered on important issues, and also has resulted in a significant reduction in local radio news coverage, and

Whereas, in an unusual, but nevertheless poignant, impact of concentrated media ownership in a single community, public safety officials in Minot, North Dakota, where all six commercial radio stations are owned now by the same national chain, were unable to reach anyone at the designated emergency radio station when a train derailment resulted in anhydrous ammonia fertilizer being released over the city, and

Whereas, until now, the existing prohibition on daily newspapers owning an AM, FM, or television station whose primary signal serves “the entire community in which such newspaper is published,” 47 C.F.R. § 73.3555(d), has remained in place, and

Whereas, under § 212(h) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, P.L. No. 104-104 as amended, the FCC is directed to review biennially all of the broadcast media ownership rules, and

Whereas, there are strong indications the commission’s current review will result in the further relaxation of the existing ownership rules, possibly allowing newspapers to purchase radio or television stations in their publication communities, and

Whereas, FCC Chair, Michael Powell, has announced the newly‑revised ownership rules will be released in final form on June 2 without an opportunity for public or congressional comment, and

Whereas, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, Ernest Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina, and Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, has written to Chairman Powell requesting that Congress and the public be afforded an opportunity to review any proposed changes before they take effect, and

Whereas, both the potential substantive changes in the media ownership rules and the lack of a public comment period are greatly disturbing, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly strongly urges the Federal Communications Commission to refrain from relaxing further the restrictions on broadcast media outlet ownership, and be it further

Resolved:  That the General Assembly urges the Federal Communications Commission to provide for a public comment period prior to the adoption of any changes to the broadcast media ownership rules, and be it further

Resolved:  That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to Michael Powell, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission, and to each member of the Vermont Congressional Delegation.