Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Thursday, September 21, 2006

FCC to probe suppression of two reports

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin announced Monday he has appointed an inspector general to investigate why two draft reports prepared for the FCC were never made public. One report, completed in 2004, suggested locally owned television stations produced more news coverage of local issues (average increase of over five minutes in a 30 minute broadcast). The other report, dated 2003, showed that while the number of commercial stations had increased by nearly six percent, the number of radio station owners had fallen by 35 percent; and that Clear Channel Communications went from owning 62 stations in 1996 to 1,233 in 2003.

Copies of the 2004 report were ordered destroyed, according to a report of the Associated Press:

Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that "every last piece” of the report be destroyed. “The whole project was just stopped - end of discussion,” he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC’s Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) notes:

At the same time that it has suppressed reports that undermine Commission members' push to further deregulate the industry, in recent years the FCC has publicized reports it has commissioned that have supported its deregulation agenda—raising the question of whether the FCC was cherry-picking publication of its publicly-funded studies. In 2002, the FCC released twelve studies that suggested that media consolidation did not in fact hurt diversity or localism (LA Times, 10/2/02). The next year the FCC, chaired by Michael Powell, voted to loosen media ownership rules, which were overturned by an appeals court.

The revelation of these suppresed reports was brought to light by Senator Barbara Boxer in hearings last week, based on information leaked to her, including a copy of the 2004 report. Martin, who was an FCC member but not its chairman until March 2005, denies any prior knowledge of this matter. So does Michael Powell, who was its chairman at the time. Martin says the FCC will post both reports at its website.

In a letter written to Martin, Boxer said she
"will ask the Inspector General of the FCC to thoroughly investigate not only the draft 2003 Review of the Radio Industry and the 2004 localism study, but also to examine whether it was then or is now the practice of the FCC to suppress facts that are contrary to a desired outcome."

Note: Thanks to Rory Litwin, whose Library Juice blog originally brought this to my attention.

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