FCC Under Fire At Nashville Ownership Meeting
December 12, 2006

The second FCC public hearing on media ownership rule changes was held yesterday in Nashville, TN. Commissioners Kevin Martin, Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein and Deborah Tate were in attendance at the hearings, with Robert McDowell unable to attend.

The day was split into two panels, the first aimed at the effect of current media ownership rules on the music business and the second focusing specifically on the Nashville market. Approximately 400 concerned members of the public were in attendance at the hearings, held at Belmont University.

In addition to the FCC Commissioners, a number of high profile Country music veterans were on hand to speak out against further ownership consolidation. "The days of an artist receiving regional airplay or breaking as a new act on radio are gone, and you are now considering making the situation even worse by letting some broadcast dynasties become even bigger broadcasting dynasties," said Country artist Porter Wagoner, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

John Rich of Country duo Big & Rich decried the lack of Country stations in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, calling it "anti-American" and a "travesty."

Both Commissioners Copps and Adelstein spoke out once again against the loosening of ownership rules. Adelstein told the crowd, "I sometimes wonder, where is the next Elvis?  Where is the next creative genius who perhaps lives in a small town and does not have the financial backing of a major record label?...I sometimes wonder if the next Elvis is not out there right now throwing down his guitar in disgust because he cannot get played on the radio because he sounds 'different.'"

Copps was applauded for his statement, in which he said, "I believe that the bargain that America made with commercial broadcasting has gotten wildly out of whack. Almost every public interest requirement that broadcasters had to prove they were meeting in order to get their licenses renewed has gone by the boards. You know, I don't think the working press really likes the direction we're heading-not one bit. I think that, given their druthers, our nation's TV and radio news directors, producers and reporters would like to produce high-quality, hard-hitting coverage that serves the public interest and not special interests. How can we help these public-spirited professionals to convince their corporate parents to give them the resources they need?"

Commissioner Martin spoke in favor of the proposed changes, and also touched on the subject of payola, noting that "the FCC has longstanding rules prohibiting payola. These rules serve the important purpose of ensuring that the listening public knows when someone is seeking to influence them. Broadcasters must comply with these rules.  We will take enforcement action if they uncover violations of the payola rules."

Copps, Martin and Adelstein's comments can all be found at fcc.gov. The Nashville hearings were the second in a series of six proposed public forums on the topic.

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Mark Adams
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