H'wood sweats media consolidation


Hollywood's creative community is mobilizing a show of force for Tuesday's FCC hearing in Los Angeles on media-ownership rules, with top guild officers and other industry luminaries set to testify about the downsides of media consolidation.

Among those expected to testify are Marshall Herskowitz, president of the Producers Guild of America; Taylor Hackford, third vp at the DGA; SAG president Alan Rosenberg; WGA West president Patric Verrone; Stephen J. Cannell, representing the Caucus for TV Producers, Writers and Directors; and R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills.

AFTRA is even urging its membership to show up to underscore opposition to increased concentration of media ownership. The group Thursday issued a call to its 25,000 members in Southern California to attend and testify at the hearings.

"As the voice of America's performers, broadcasters and recording artists, AFTRA represents a wide spectrum of workers in the media and entertainment industries," AFTRA national president John Connolly said. "On the job and in the community, AFTRA members have experienced firsthand the devastating effects of media consolidation. It is critically important that our voice is heard at the public hearing."

FCC commissioners have set the regional hearings at USC in Los Angeles and a high school in nearby El Segundo, Calif., as part of a periodic review of media-ownership regulations. The hearings will include public comment and testimony by industry panels comprising the guild reps and others.

Any groundswell of support for tightening limits on media ownership would serve well the interests of the two Democratic minority commissioners, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. Both have been increasingly vocal in criticizing the loosening of media-ownership regulations that were the hallmark of former FCC chairman Michael Powell.

"What you get out of these hearings is explicit knowledge of what's going on in various media markets around the country," Copps said. "The question is, are we going to go down the same near-disastrous media road that chairman Powell put us on in 2002 and 2003? Or are we going to get some accurate facts about the effects of (deregulation) and come out of here with a more reasoned approach?"

Adelstein called the L.A. hearing "critically important because that's the hub of American creative talent.

"Simply put, media consolidation stifles creativity and, as a result, our democracy, national economy and world leadership suffer," he added. "I believe the chairman (Kevin Martin) and my fellow commissioners are approaching this hearing with an open mind and in good faith. And we're looking forward to hearing the experiences and concerns of the creative community."

Copps went a bit further.

"I don't know of any other dialogue that is more important for us to have as a country right now," he said. "There's a lot of concern around the country that consolidation has led to diminishing diversity in program, diminishing localization and diminished competition."