The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) got an earful today (July 20) from media unions, federal lawmakers and radio, TV and newspaper staffers, who charge that media consolidation has disconnecte

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) got an earful today (July 20) from media unions, federal lawmakers and radio, TV and newspaper staffers, who charge that media consolidation has disconnected the public from local communities and nearly killed local music choice.

At a media gathering in Washington, D.C., union leaders joined Democratic FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, along with Reps. Diane E. Watson, D-Calif.; Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.; Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.; and Jay Inslee, D-Wash. They called for FCC Chairman Michael Powell to "seek broad-based public input where the impact of such regulatory changes will be felt the most -- local media markets."

The unions released a discouraging survey of radio, TV and newspaper workers, who say that consolidation has resulted in not only employee layoffs and sagging morale, but a diluted final product for consumers.

Of those surveyed, 90% cited adverse effects of mergers on employees and production.

The survey of 400 members of four unions in the media industry was designed and conducted by Lauer Research Inc. on behalf of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA), the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, the Newspaper Guild and the Writers Guild of America, East.

Also, at an FCC localism hearing today in Monterey, Calif., AFTRA president John Connolly cited centralized playlists, new forms of "payola" and exclusive arrangements between independent promoters and radio stations as major problems.

"Most of the 'American' sounds we love actually started as regional sounds -- the Detroit sound, the Philly sound, the Seattle sound," said Connolly. "With homogenized and nationalized decision-making, local sounds no longer have an opportunity to reach even their own local airwaves, let alone use local airplay to break out to a national audience."

Connolly also urged the FCC to examine the issue of vertical integration of radio and concert businesses closely to "ensure that radio stations may not use the ability to receive airplay as leverage to force artists to use the station owner's other businesses."

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