FCC hearings in Nashville brings out multiple voices

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The FCC is making its way across the country for public hearings about the rules governing media ownership. The second of six nationwide hearings was held Monday at Belmont University.

The final decisions on this issue could impact news in Music City.

The hearings will help in the process of deciding how many television, radio and newspapers one company can own.

For example, Virginia based Gannett, who owns The Tennessean, also owns a lot of TV stations across the country. Under current rules that date back to 1975, Gannett could not buy another media outlet in Nashville because it would own too much media in one city or market.

Members of the public made comments at the public portion, and country stars spoke as part of a panel.

The event featured panel discussions with labor leaders, broadcasters, and some of country music’s biggest names – George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Naomi Judd, Big and Rich, Cowboy Troy, Dobie Gray – whose music is increasingly at the mercy of a consolidated radio industry.

"The American dream of free enterprise and letting the market decide who survives and who fails is okay. When my live, my income and my profession as well as the needs of my fans when their effected by media  consolidation, we don’t need to make a move we don’t need to make a move any further in the wrong direction for our recording industry, our fans and the American public," George Jones said.

Country stars came down hard on large companies that own many radio stations in big cities, saying that it has affected their fan base and careers.

Critics of big media said larger media ownership companies would cut down on news coverage. Others said the media can’t survive with out some changes.

"We the people should have millions of choices, but how the hell can that happen with only one or two voices," San Cooper who opposes easing ownership rules said.

Critics said owning more media outlets could mean fewer independent voices in news. Tennessean publisher Ellen Leifeld saw it differently.

"Permitting common ownership of a local newspapers and television stations is, in our opinion, would enhance the quality, quantity, and diversity of local news available to consumers," Leifeld said.

Many of the people in charge of Nashville’s media outlets said change is necessary.

"I want the NewsChannel 5 Network to remain competitive in the future so we can give back to this local community.  The playing field must be leveled in order to do so," NewsChannel 5 General Manager Debbie Turner said.

The head of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters said Tennessee has a diverse ownership of media outlets across the state. Nashville’s 61 radio stations are owned by 38 different owners.

There has already been one FCC hearing in Los Angeles where hundreds of people showed up.

In 2003, the FCC tried to relax media ownership rules but a federal court stopped that from happening.