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FCC Chairman Headlines Wednesday Hearing On Localism

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Localism Task Force

of the

Federal Communications Commission

will hold the first of six public hearings on the subject of localism Wednesday night in Charlotte.

Several FCC commissioners will preside over the hearing, which can be viewed

live from 5:30 p.m.-8:45 p.m. on WRAL.com

, as well as on the

WRAL NewsChannel.

Jim Goodmon, president of

Capitol Broadcasting Company,

parent company of WRAL-TV, will be among the panelists at the hearing at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. Goodmon will participate in the second half of the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at approximately 7:50 p.m.

The purpose of the six hearings is to gather information from consumers, industry leaders, civic organizations and other groups on broadcasters' service to their local communities.

Wednesday's hearing is especially significant because it is the first one to be attended by FCC Chairman Michael Powell since he pushed through a deregulation of media ownership rules -- sparking a groundswell of opposition from across the political spectrum.

Wednesday's hearing will begin with

a number of invited guests and panelists making brief introductory remarks.

The commissioners then will have an opportunity to ask the panelists questions or comment on the subject of localism.

Approximately one half of the time allotted for the hearing will be reserved for the public to register its views through an "open microphone" format. The "open mic" portion of the hearing is schedule to take place from 6:30 p.m.-7:35 p.m., following the first group of panelists.

U.S. Rep. David Price, D-Chapel Hill, will attend the hearing as he continues his efforts to push for competition, localism and diversity in media.

On June 2, 2003, Powell engineered a party-line FCC vote to relax rules on media ownership, a decision that will enable large companies to buy more television stations and own a newspaper and a broadcast outlet in the same city.

Since then, Price has been working on a series of legislative initiatives in the U.S. House that would effectively roll back some or all of the new rules. Millions of people from across the political spectrum have contacted the FCC in protest of the deregulation, fearing it will undermine local control of media in their communities.

The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution of disapproval, which rescinds the new FCC rules. A U.S. Appeals Court has stayed implementation of the new rules.

On Aug. 20, 2003, Powell created the Localism Task Force to, in his words, "evaluate how broadcasters are serving their local communities.

"Broadcasters must serve the public interest," Powell said, "and the commission has consistently interpreted this to require broadcast licensees to air programming that is responsive to the interests and needs of their communities."

Powell's decision to create a task force drew

a sharp response from Goodmon

at the time. In a statement released to 17 national media outlets, Goodmon called Powell's decision "arrogant " and said the chairman was more interested in economics than localism.

"There is certain arrogance in Chairman Powell's presentation," Goodmon said. "He continually reminds us that he is an anti-trust lawyer, and this is an economic issue. . . . He often remarks that those who disagree with him are 'too emotional' and need to calm down. Calm down?"

Goodmon disagreed with Powell's contention that the new ownership rules are "core" to the localism issue.

Also attending Wednesday's hearing will be FCC Commissioners Michael Copps, Kathleen Abernathy and Jonathan Adelstein, and Rep. Mel Watt.

Goodmon will be joined on the panel by singer/songwriter Tift Merritt, WUNC-FM General Manager Joan Siefert Rose, WNCN General Manager Michael Ward, and representatives of the

North Carolina Family Policy Council

and the

North Carolina League of Women Voters.

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