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Chicagoans to speak out for local media ownership

Submitted on Tue, 09/18/2007 – 14:42.

Media activists are mobilizing for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hearing in Chicago to be held at Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The main issue being discussed this week is whether the FCC should allow greater media consolidation.

The FCC is considering whether or not to lift restrictions on cross-ownership of media outlets, which would allow large corporations to own more media outlets. Critics charge that lifting restrictions would further weaken local coverage and minority ownership.

But local groups are getting ready for the hearing.

To help concerned citizens who wish to speak at the event, some community groups have hosted “prep sessions,” including a local NAACP chapter, Chicago Media Action, Radio Arte and We the People Media.

The FCC proposals are “outrageous,” said Brian Imus of Illinois PIRG, another group involved in the hearing. The FCC “should be protecting local control of media, because it’s so important to democracy and the flow of ideas.”

Karl Brinsen of the West Side NAACP chapter said radio conglomerate Clear Channel owns four of Chicago’s major black-oriented radio stations and last year signed an agreement to lease one of its frequencies to WVON-AM, Chicago’s only black-owned radio station.

Brinsen questions the negative images emphasized in youth music promoted by absentee owners, while local hip-hop artists with positive messages toil in obscurity.

“It’s a big issue – how local conscious artists don’t get an opportunity to have airplay,” Brinsen said.

Chicago has the lowest level of minority ownership of the nation’s 22 largest radio markets, according to This coalition is led by the Free Press and includes major consumer, civil rights and labor organizations. Of the nation’s 10 largest radio markets, Chicago is the only one with minority ownership in the single digits, according to the group.

Learn how to get involved.

This is the second time media ownership rule changes have been considered in recent years. When ownership rules were relaxed in 2003, public uproar caused Congress to vote against the changes and a federal court required the FCC to seek public input before approving new ownership rules.

Hearings, such as the one in Chicago this week, are a response to the court’s decision – and an opportunity for citizens to voice concerns or questions about local media and news coverage.

Easing restrictions on media ownership has led to reduced local news coverage, according to Mitchell Szczepanczyk of Chicago Media Action.

This public hearing is scheduled for Thurs., Sept. 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at Rainbow PUSH Coalition, 930 E. 50th St.

A live music event in support of local media takes place the night before the hearing. The Future of Music Coalition and Chicago Independent Radio Project‘s “Rock The Media” starts at 8:00 p.m. at Delilah’s, 2771 N. Lincoln.Ave., on Wed. Sept. 19

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