U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey (NY-22) today introduced the Media Ownership Reform Act of 2004 (MORA). The bill seeks to restore fairness in broadcasting, reduce media concentration, ensure that broadcasters meet their public interest requirements, and promote diversity, localism, and competition in American media.
"The weakening of media protections, and subsequent consolidation of the media industry, has allowed companies to ignore their obligations to serve the public interest and severely reduced localism, diversity, and competition in today’s media," said Hinchey. "The current state of today’s media threatens the ability of our democracy to function because it does not allow for the wide dissemination of information from diverse sources and viewpoints, thereby shrinking the marketplace of ideas."
Hinchey's legislation cites the gradual erosion of public interest protections in the rules governing media ownership, beginning with the Reagan Administration's elimination of the Fairness Doctrine and culminating in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) decision to drastically weaken ownership rules last June.
Among other provisions, MORA will:
· strike down the FCC's June 2, 2003 decision in its entirety;
· restore the Fairness Doctrine and give it the power of law, requiring broadcast licensees to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance;
· roll back to 35 percent the portion of the national audience that a single party may reach through broadcast television ownership.
· prevent any single entity from owning more than five percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast radio stations nationally;
· reform the FCC practices through which the commission has gradually weakened ownership rules;
· require broadcast licensees to report how they are serving the public interest;
· break up the monopolization of programming production and distribution.