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FCC rulings will hurt consumers

Richer media corporations and poorer information seem the likely result if the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to relax the rules limiting media ownership is approved by Congress.

The rule was passed on a 3-2 vote by the FCC Monday and allows companies to own both newspapers and television stations in U.S. cities.

Monopolies are rarely desirable, and this leaves consumers at the mercy of companies. This is especially true in the media industry, where a monopoly of information can deprive viewers of genuine choices and provides the monopolist with a worrying level of influence.

The FCC ruling will allow companies to expand their audience reach to 45 percent, a 10 percent increase. This may give media companies too much power over the content that is made available to the public.

For example, Clear Channel which already owns more than 1,200 radio stations in the nation, could purchase a newspaper or two TV stations in the Tampa Bay area to expand its revenue, even though Clear Channel already owns about 15 radio stations between Sarasota and Tampa.

Further, it gives companies such as Viacom and Clear Channel Communications a green light to continue its takeover of smaller media outlets.

According to the Constitution, the airwaves are property of the people. The media shouldn’t be about big wigs like Ted Turner expanding multimillion dollar profits, but about making information accessible to the public, especially those who will be affected by it. The further expansion of companies such as AOL Time Warner, which owns HBO, CNN, Warner Brothers and Time magazine, will only reduce the choices of news and entertainment available to viewers and provide those who control the media with unprecedented levels of influence through the increased market shares acquired from mergers and the purchase of smaller media outlets.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell said the new ruling wouldn’t have any affect on U.S. audiences. But the new rules will lessen the variety in news sources accessible to the public, which will make it increasingly impossible for the discerning viewer to see an issue covered by two independent sources.

Congress still can amend the rules if lawmakers find it necessary. The lawmakers should seriously consider using this power before the power of information is transferred into the wrong hands.