Media Ownership Battle in United States “Moment of Truth for Democracy and Pluralism

The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed efforts to block new rules on media ownership in the United States, the world´s largest media market, saying that the struggle in the US has serious implications for the campaign to limit the power of global media corporations.

The House of Representatives in Washington has adopted a spending strategy that blocks attempts by United states regulators to introduce plans to allow television, radio and newspaper companies to buy each other and raises the limit of television ownership by a single broadcaster.

"The controversial debate over the liberalisation of media ownership rules is now entering a crucial stage," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is now reaching a moment of truth for democracy and pluralism."

The IFJ is backing a long-running campaign by its US affiliates -- The Newspaper Guild-CWA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the National Writers Union and the Writers Guild (East) -- opposing changes in ownership rules that were agreed in June after a million-dollar lobbying campaign by media owners with the support of a republican majority in the Federal Communications Commission.

"The opposition, which includes the US trade union movement and a massive coalition of civil society groups, has convinced many members of Congress that these rules go too far and are not in the public interest," said White. "They have been pushed through without proper public debate and if they are implemented they will set an unacceptable standard for toleration of media concentration around the world."

The Congress decision, which would derail the changes by preventing the FCC from spending funds to implement the new rules, is likely to force a confrontation with the Republican White House ready to veto any bill that prevents the changes taking effect.

President George Bush is likely to stand by the Republican leadership and media owners in their efforts to force the changes through.

"Nevertheless, this decision by Congress is a sign that these new rules will be fought every step of the way," said White. "They are bad for people who work in the industry, bad for consumers and bad for democracy. They need to be rolled back."

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists. in more than 100 countries