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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: fcc

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August 14, 2014 at 6:03 AM

FCC should listen to tech-savvy Seattle and preserve open Internet

Well, Seattle residents have spoken. Many of them, anyway, in favor of preserving net neutrality and against creating a two-lane Internet highway in which Internet providers could charge some users more for faster access and connectivity. The Federal Communications Commission recently released about 1.1 million comments from its first comment period.  TechCrunch’s initial analysis found…

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Comments | Topics: fcc, net neutrality, Seattle

June 3, 2014 at 6:05 AM

HBO’s John Oliver to Internet commenters: ‘Channel your anger’

Comedian and host John Oliver delivered an epic diatribe Sunday night on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight”  against cable companies seeking to create a “fast track” at a premium price for popular websites.

If you haven’t tracked this issue or are looking for a good laugh, watch the segment below. (WARNING: Oliver uses some strong language throughout the commentary. The video contains several “beep” sounds, but viewers will notice it’s still obvious what he’s saying. So — listen with headphones on if you’re at work or around kids.)

The gist of Oliver’s argument is this: If cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner (which are trying to merge into one mega-company) can make net neutrality sound as mundane as possible, no one will care about their effort to fundamentally change the Internet, where all information is available at the same speed.

“The cable companies have figured out if you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring,” he says. 

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Comments | Topics: fcc, hbo, john oliver

May 15, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Rally against FCC’s plans to end era of open Internet

Updated at 9:32 a.m. to reflect the FCC’s vote and to include statements from lawmakers.

Original story:

Today is the day.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is scheduled to propose rule changes that could end the open Internet as we know it and create a fast lane for Internet service providers willing to pay a premium. (Read The Seattle Times’ May 11 and May 13 editorials. Share your thoughts on the Opinion Northwest blog.)

The hearing begins at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (7:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time). View streaming video on the FCC’s website.

L to R: Commissioner Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. Commissioners Group Photo, November 2013

Members of the Federal Communications Commission. Left to right: Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O’Rielly. (Photo courtesy FCC)

Take action

Visit savetheinternet.com for more information, graphics, videos and resources to share with your communities.

Here in Washington, a rally associated with the watchdog group Free Press is scheduled for Thursday at noon. Here are the details, via MoveOn.org:

Seattle FCC Office, 11410 NE 122nd Way (Map)
Kirkland, WA 98034
Thursday, May 15

Rally scheduled from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Elected officials unite in opposition to net neutrality (This section will be updated as lawmakers’ responses are received.)

On May 9, 10 U.S. senators (not including Washington’s Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell) sent a letter to Wheeler, strongly urging the FCC to pursue a rule-making process that ensures the Internet remains “open to all, and making sure that Internet access is free from the threat of blocking, discrimination, and pay-to-play schemes.” To U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell‘s credit, she offered the following statement in a April 24 press release:

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Comments | Topics: fcc, net neutrality, open internet

March 31, 2014 at 6:02 AM

FCC should curb TV media consolidation by closing loophole

Watch what the Federal Communications Commission does on Monday. For the first time in years, the panel should move to slow down media consolidation by closing a loophole that has allowed a handful of the nation’s largest broadcasters to skirt laws limiting station ownership.

No surprise, the broadcast industry is vehemently opposed to ending the practice of Joint Sales Agreements, but this sort of business tactic (covered in-depth by The Wall Street Journal) has diminished local ownership and allowed a small number of big players to control the flow of information over huge swaths of the country.

Local television news is at risk of becoming more about profits for out-of-town corporate bosses than about informing communities with quality news. Why should viewers care about any of this? The fewer owners there are in broadcast news, the fewer perspectives will be featured on the public airwaves. Some argue it makes business sense for the industry to combine operations to be more efficient. But at what cost? With consolidation, women and minority ownership has dropped.

The Seattle Times weighed in on the JSA issue in a March 3 editorial, and encouraged the FCC to follow the advice of the U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-trust attorneys:

Federal attorneys advised the FCC to better scrutinize every deal that comes before its five-member panel. The regulators should force companies to report when they operate multiple stations jointly in the same market, as they already do for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Failure to account for the effects of such arrangements can create opportunities to circumvent FCC ownership limits and the goals those limits are intended to advance,” Justice Department officials wrote.

Consolidation shrinks newsrooms and deprives viewers of in-depth journalism that speaks truth to power. The FCC has failed miserably to protect the integrity of the public’s airwaves through promoting competition, local ownership and diverse viewpoints.

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Comments | Topics: fcc, free press, joint sales agreements

November 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Media experts in Seattle to warn of big money’s influence on elections

Media experts John Nichols and Robert McChesney are truly worried about the strength of American democracy.

We should listen to what they have to say. Then we must do something about it.

Last Friday, Bill Moyers interviewed the pair about those issues for his show on PBS:

In Seattle this week to promote their new book, “Dollaracracy,” the pair argue that our elections are increasingly influenced by money from the country’s richest individuals and corporations. Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation, and McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign, also warn that broadcast media companies are now more focused on amassing stations and profits from political advertising than serving the public interest through robust local journalism. (Read my previous Opinion NW blog post with a visual of what media consolidation looks like.)

On Monday evening, the two spoke at Town Hall. They’ll continue their tour of Seattle Tuesday evening at the University of Washington at 7 p.m. in Kane Hall (Room 130). Here’s a link to more information about the UW event.

If you don’t get a chance to hear them in person in Seattle, watch our editorial page’s Nov. 4 Google+ Hangout On-Air with Nichols, McChesney, Seattle Times editorial writer Lance Dickie and Free Press President/CEO Craig Aaron. They offered their fascinating insights into the state of the media, big money’s influence on elections, growing concerns over privacy in the digital age, and how political campaigns have started to mine voter data.

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Comments | Topics: elections, fcc, john nichols

October 29, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Interactive: Big media conglomerates taking over local TV

Some things you have to see to believe, right? Well, take a look at the interactive graphic below by Free Press, a media watchdog group that closely monitors the Federal Communications Commission. It shows how four media conglomerates have quickly amassed news stations nationwide. It is disturbing stuff. The FCC clearly continues to ignore its own…

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Comments | Topics: fcc, free press, media consolidation

July 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Media consolidation continues with Tribune’s announced purchase of 19 TV stations

The Tribune Company must be doing okay after emerging from bankruptcy several months ago. The corporation’s leadership announced Monday they are purchasing 19 television stations from Local TV Holdings, LLC for $2.7 billion in cash. The sale is still subject to FCC approval.

I wonder whether Seattle viewers realize three of the five news stations in town are now in some stage of ownership change? Sinclair is buying Fisher Broadcasting (parent company of KOMO-TV). Gannett announced its intention to take over Belo (operator of KING 5). KCPQ-TV has been a Tribune property since 1998, but the local Fox affiliate may soon be part of a much larger conglomerate consisting of 42 television stations.

Our local channels — with the exception of Fisher and KCTS— have not been locally owned or independent for some time, but there’s still plenty to lament. I don’t mean to say the new owners have bad intentions or will drive down the quality of news. They may continue to produce great award-winning content. I really hope they do. But when large companies gobble up smaller entities, it generally leads to fewer diverse perspectives on the air and less opportunity for ownership by women and people of color. Take a look at the 2010 charts by the media watchdog group, Free Press. The situation has not improved.

A 2010 chart from Free Press' Off the Dial study shows how consolidation limits ownership and makes it more difficult for women and people of color to become media owners and promote diverse programming.

A 2010 chart from Free Press’ Off the Dial study shows how consolidation limits ownership and makes it more difficult for women and people of color to become media owners and promote diverse programming. (Source: Free Press)

A 2010 Free Press chart illustrating the results of a study that shows the devastating impact of consolidation on minority and female television station ownership. (Source: Free Press)

A 2010 Free Press chart illustrating the results of a study that shows the devastating impact of consolidation on minority and female television station ownership. (Source: Free Press)

Media consolidation makes financial sense. Some might argue it allows companies — especially those formerly invested in newspapers— a chance to diversify their investments and reap the rewards that come with television ownership, including ad sales. At the same time, I worry the profit motives driving these sales will trump what’s in the public interest, which is strong, fearless programming that reflects the values and make-up of our diverse communities.

Last week, I wrote about how lawmakers like U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell are asking the right questions about cross-ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same markets, but it doesn’t look like the FCC is going to do much to stop the trend. I’m not sure how many people really even care, which is too bad considering the airwaves used by television stations actually belong to the public. We allow these private entities to use those airwaves to broadcast popular shows and to turn a profit. In exchange they are supposed to provide a service to the public in the form of news and information to help us make informed decisions and maintain a strong democracy. We should ask ourselves whether they are holding up their end of the bargain, and whether the FCC is properly enforcing ownership rules.

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Comments | Topics: belo, consolidation, fcc

June 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Maria Cantwell right to put FCC chair nominee in hot seat over media consolidation

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., continues to demonstrate strong leadership on the issue of curbing media consolidation.

As the Federal Communications Commission undergoes an important review of media ownership guidelines, Cantwell and her colleagues on the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee are getting to know Thomas Wheeler, President Barack Obama’s nominee to become the next chair of the FCC.

In his first initial meeting before the panel last week, Cantwell told Wheeler the newspaper industry’s efforts to purchase more broadcasting stations should be scrutinized, especially after Gannett’s announcement it plans to purchase broadcasting giant Belo’s 23 television stations — including KING 5 in Seattle. Five of those broadcasters are in other cities where Gannett already owns a newspaper. Current rules prohibit media companies from owning multiple properties in the same market.

“And while the purchase is subject to the approval of both the FCC and DOJ, I think Gannett is trying to basically use these ownership rules, use the whole shared service agreement, as a way to get around those rules. So I’m very concerned about that whole issue,” she said.

Wheeler responded, “Senator, I understand the seriousness of this issue. And I have long been an advocate of diversity of voices. On the specific issue that you just raised, I also note that the chairman has asked the [Government Accountability Office] to opine on this issue. And I think that’s appropriate and called for. And I look forward to their opining, their opinion. But I think you said the key thing: that when the commission looks at these issues – competition, localism and diversity – are the issues that should be the touchstones. Not business plans.”

Watch the full June 18 Q&A between the senator and Wheeler in the video below, courtesy of Cantwell’s YouTube channel:

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Comments | Topics: fcc, maria cantwell, media consolidation