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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 30, 2003

Nationwide protests target media-ownership proposals

By Gary Gentile
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Protesters around the country held signs, chanted and even scrawled messages on pink slips to urge federal regulators not to allow large media companies to become even larger.

Yesterday's demonstrations were staged just four days before the Federal Communications Commission is to consider eliminating many restrictions on media ownership in the same city.

Another proposal would raise an existing market cap that prevents any one company from owning a combination of TV stations that reach more than 35 percent of U.S. households.

The issue has relevance in Hawai'i, where a vote to relax the ownership rules would allow two TV stations — Fox affiliate KHON and CBS affiliate KGMB — to be kept by Emmis Communications Corp., an Indianapolis-based company that has owned both stations for two years under temporary FCC exemptions.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has said the regulatory changes are needed to reflect a market altered by cable TV, satellite broadcasts and the Internet. If the FCC fails to act, outdated rules will be swept away by court challenges, he said.

In Los Angeles, about 60 people marched outside Clear Channel talk radio station KFI with signs reading, "No Choice, No Voice: Reclaim Our Airwaves."

"We're frozen out," said Karen Pomer, a member of the group Code Pink, which organized the protest and also rallied for peace during the war in Iraq. "All of this is benefiting conservative voices."

At a rally of about nine people in Charleston, S.C., Jenny Powers of the Charleston branch of the National Organization for Women said Clear Channel's war coverage "was all pro-Bush."

About a dozen people protested outside the Clear Channel building in Pittsburgh. Protesters carried a woman's pink slip scrawled with the words, "You are canceled for assault on free speech."

A Clear Channel spokesman said media coverage of the protests is evidence that diverse viewpoints are not ignored. The San Antonio-based chain has become a favorite target for those who oppose deregulation. The company owns 1,200 stations nationwide, including nine in Los Angeles.

Relaxing restrictions on media ownership is opposed by the two Democrats on the FCC and backed by the three Republicans, including Powell.