IFJ Calls for Global Solidarity Over US Campaign Against Media Concentration

The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed a court decision to block changes in media ownership rules in the United States and called for international solidarity with campaigners who are aiming to roll back changes which the IFJ warns will create “dramatic new levels” of media concentration.

“The world’s media takes its cue from what happens in the US,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, “and this battle against increasing the power of media conglomerates is one in which supporters of pluralism and quality journalism worldwide have a stake.”

The IFJ is also supporting Senators who today were planning to vote against the inclusion of money to pay for implementation of the changes in a budget vote to be held in Congress.

“There are increasing signs that people are determined to defend their local media from conglomerates who are obsessed with cashing in on the media market and have no respect for the public interest,” said White.

The ownership rules were changed on a split vote by the Federal Communications Commission in June. They give media companies the right to up to 45 per cent of the TV station ownership (instead of 35 percent) and allow greater cross-ownership in the major cities. Yesterday, a Federal Court in Philadelphia blocked the rules based on the argument that they would concentrate too much power in the hands of media companies.

The IFJ says concentration of ownership is destroying diversity in the US media. This week Vivendi Universal Entertainment announced its plan to merge its entertainment business with General Electric's television network NBC. The new company, with revenues of $13bn for 2003, will be a new force on the global media scene, joining AOL Time Warner, Disney, Viacom and News Corp as the major US players. NBC is already a major media corporation with 14 television stations plus 200 affiliates throughout the US.

In Europe and Australia, media concentration continues to rise and corporate lobbyists have been pushing for further deregulation. The United Kingdom is implementing a new Communication Bill allowing for greater levels of deregulation, the Australian government proposed to deregulate media ownership in June and the Italian Parliament will debate on media ownership rules on 18 September.

“The global crisis will continue to deepen unless the June decision is rescinded,” said White. “The ultimate losers will be all those who adhere to the principles of media pluralism and democracy.”

The IFJ is particularly backing the campaign of its US affiliates -- The Newspaper Guild-CWA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the National Writers Union and the Writers Guild (East) – and other civil society groups in their lobbying to scrap the new rules. “Over one million American citizens have submitted comments to the FCC rules, but the FCC ignored them”, said CWA President Linda Foley, “It’s now up to the other branches of the government to respond”.

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