‘Xpress’ testifies

Many local-media representatives said their piece at the town-hall meeting with the two FCC commissioners. Mountain Xpress was among the publications that submitted testimony. Our newspaper’s statement is reprinted verbatim below.


June 28, 2006

Remarks before the FCC forum on the future of media, Asheville, North Carolina

Commissioners, panelists and guests:

I’m Jon Elliston, news editor for the Mountain Xpress, a weekly newspaper based here in Asheville since 1994. I’m speaking for the paper, whose independent ownership has placed a priority on producing quality news, rather than on the bottom line. I’d like to share some of our perspective on the importance of keeping the media free from domination by a handful of corporations.

To do so, I’ll borrow liberally from the words of North Carolina’s own Edward R. Murrow — a voice of reason in journalism if ever there was one.

“The obscure we see eventually,” he said. “The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.” And so it goes with questions of media consolidation. The “completely obvious” point, we believe — the one hidden in plain sight — is that when a smaller and smaller number of corporations owns a larger and larger share of the media pie, fewer voices are heard, and fewer voices speak truth to power, which is one of our prime duties as journalists.

Murrow pointed up the risks of placing too much media power in too few hands when he noted that companies concerned primarily with the bottom line aren’t necessarily the ones who will give us the most important information: “If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour,” he said, “there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.”

Promoting a diverse, decentralized media is a difficult challenge for an FCC that is subject to the push and pull of corporate priorities just as surely as are other government entities. But as Murrow put it, “Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.”

And so we ask you, commissioners, to remember that a free, decentralized media market that leaves room for voices big and small is part of the lifeblood of our democracy.

Lastly, as you pursue measures to reform the American media, we say, as Murrow would, “Good night, and good luck.”

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