New House Subcommittee To Investigate Media Ownership

by on January 13, 2007 · 12 comments

MEMPHIS, Tenn., January 13, 2007–A new House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, will turn its oversight to a range of government agencies, particularly the Federal Communications Commission, Kucinich announced here on Friday night.

Kucinich, a 2004 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination who stated his intention to run again in 2008, said that his committee will hold holdings criticizing the FCC on the issue of media ownership.

In a speech before the National Conference for Media Reform here, unexpected visitor Kucinich announced his chairmanship of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee.

The new subcommittee, Kucinich said in the speech, would be a platform to hold “hearings to push media reform right at the center of Washington.”

“You are the message,” he said to the cheering crowd.

Kucinich’s assignment had been scheduled to be unveiled next week in Washington. But Kucinich, introduced by actor Danny Glover, let the news out in a short but rousing speech.

Glover, Kucinich and other speakers and performers were on stage at a gala event at Memphis Convention Center. The conference, which has attracted more than 2,000 activists, advocates, policy-makers and producers of independent media, began on Friday and runs through Sunday.

Kucinich specifically criticized efforts by to the Bush administration to ease the so-called “cross-ownership” ban in a news conference after his speech. The rule keeps media companies from owning a television station and a newspaper in the same market. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has said he would like to ease the ban.

Kucinich also said that he would hold hearings on reinstating the “Fairness Doctrine,” a former requirement that radio and television stations provide a right to respond to allegations in “controversial” broadcasts.

“Yes, absolutely, we’re going to get that,” Kucinich said in a brief interview.

The Reagan administration eliminated the rule in the 1980s, and Congress has subsequently been unable to muster the votes to reinstate it. Some Democrats would like to bring it back, and feel that their new majority gives them that opportunity.

Kucinich’s subcommittee plans will mean that Martin will face oversight hearings by at least two congressional committees in the Democratic-controlled House. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by John Dingell, D-Mich., has traditionally had jurisdiction over the FCC and communications law.

Dingell, who was also Energy and Commerce Committee chairman from 1981 to 1994, has a history of holding vigorous oversight hearings.

After her election as House Speaker on Jan. 4, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has pushed much of the oversight responsibility to the Government Reform Committee. It is chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

“I know that the House Commerce Committee has the authority to hold these hearings as well,” Kucinich said at the news conference. “The [sub]committee I chair [is part of] the Committee on Government Reform. It has free rein to hold hearings, whether or not another committee is holding hearings, too.”

Kucinich also said that he would support a federal shield law to protect journalists and bloggers from being required to reveal confidential sources or face jail.

He embraced the mother of Josh Wolf, a freelance journalist and journalist and videographer currently in detention for refusing to turn over source material for a video he shot at a San Francisco protest of a summit meeting of leaders of major industrial nations.

Kucinich also said that he did not support impeachment of President Bush at the present time. But he and other House Democrats would likely turn to discussing impeachment if Bush invaded Iran, he said.

Kucinich and others at the Media Reform Conference here have linked media ownership rules and the coverage in the press of Bush and the Iraq war.

“We know The New York Times played an unfortunate role” in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, Kucinich said. “The media reform movement is opening up holding the media to a higher standard of accountability.”

“The urgency of media reform has never been more obvious,” Kucinich said. “The media has become a servant to very narrow corporate interests.”

Kucinich, who opposed the Iraq war in 2002, also said he was getting better reviews from the media. “As a candidate for president this time, the mainstream media is providing a different level of coverage to me than before.”

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