Tester racks up another victory, gets FCC to back off media rule

Senator’s stand for local Montana news outlets bears fruit, strikes blow against media consolidation

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester’s landmark Forest Jobs and Recreation Act made big news earlier this week, but the Montana farmer today announced another victory for residents of the Big Sky State.

Tester today announced that he successfully got the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to back off a proposed rule that would have led to greater media consolidation. The agency, which regulates interstate communications, last year issued a proposal to allow a region’s major newspaper to also own its leading TV or radio station.

Tester told the FCC that the change could ultimately lead to fewer independent Montana news stations and local media coverage, as well as fewer independent sources of information nationally. In the wake of this week’s victory, Tester said he appreciated new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler standing with him to ensure freedom of information in the face of potential media consolidation.

“When ownership of local television and radio stations is concentrated in too few hands, diversity is threatened and decisions are made by large media companies hundreds of miles away,” Tester said. “I appreciate Chairman Wheeler taking a fresh look at this rule and coming down on the side of media freedom, local news and diversity of information.”

According to a recent Pew Research study, 74 percent of adults get their news from local TV stations, 51 percent from radio broadcasts, and 50 percent from local newspapers.

When the rule was still under consideration, Tester reminded former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that the FCC’s mission is to promote “localism and diversity” in the nation’s broadcast system. He also noted that fewer independent news stations would further limit the number of media outlets owned and operated by women and minorities. Women own less than seven percent of all full-power commercial radio and television stations.

The FCC previously attempted to allow more media consolidation in 2008. In response, Tester backed a Senate resolution blocking the agency’s plan.

Tester’s letter to former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is available online HERE. More information about the FCC’s withdrawal of its proposed rule is available HERE.