National Day of Action: Tens of Thousands of Petitions Delivered

Yesterday, what began as a click on a Web site became a national day of action in which local community members from Phoenix, Ariz. to Bridgeport, Conn. marched into their representatives’ local offices and urged them to stand up for better media.

In nearly 50 cities and towns around the country, local citizens delivered tens of thousands of petition signatures calling on members of Congress to support the “Resolution of Disapproval” that would veto the Federal Communications Commission’s latest handout to Big Media.

Last December, in the face of an unprecedented public outcry and pressure from across the political spectrum, the FCC voted to gut the longstanding media ownership rules that stopped one company from gobbling up TV stations and newspapers in the same community. Prior to that vote, people held rallies in Washington, D.C., and Seattle, filled public hearings in Chicago and Tampa and organized massive outreach campaigns to stop the FCC.

Now that the Senate has overturned the FCC decision, all eyes are on the House. And the public is stepping up again to remind their lawmakers that media consolidation is bad news for everyone. The outpouring of local opposition to media consolidation comes as Congress prepares to return to Washington from August recess. Yesterday’s day of action was part of’s “100 Cosponsors in 100 Days” initiative.

Among the highlights:

John Crotty delivered six pages of petition signatures from residents of Missouri’s Second District to Rep. Todd Akin (R -MO-2). Crotty met with Rep. Akin’s press secretary, who said that the representative supported reining in media consolidation and fostering a media that better served local communities and our democracy. Rep. Akin voted to overturn the FCC’s ruling the last time they tried to gut media ownership rules in 2003.

Mary Tuma organized journalism students from the University of Texas for a visit to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX-21). These future journalists spoke passionately about their concern for the role of the media in their community. “As a former journalist and member of the Subcommittee on Internet and Intellectual Property, H.J Res. 79 should be of importance to the congressman on many levels,” Tuma said.

This day of action was preceded by other in-district meetings in which members had in-depth conversations about the media in their communities with their representatives.

In New Mexico, local citizens joined with community leaders to visit Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) to talk about the impact of media consolidation on her district’s diverse communities. One of the participants, Jessica Lopez of the New Mexico Media Literacy Project, said, “Cross-ownership would not only diminish independent voices, but that of women and people of color, who own a very small percentage of stations and newspapers. Media consolidation affects not only who we see in the media and how they are represented, but also who is behind the scenes producing what we see, read and hear.”

Residents from suburban Chicago connected through and organized a meeting with Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL-13). After delivering hundreds of signatures, Paul Sjordal said, “Having worked with the media for 28 years as an Air Force public affairs officer, I am very concerned that the quality of journalism has degraded to the point that it is not only misinforming American citizens, it has virtually ceased serving as a vital fourth estate.”

The reports keep rolling in from members and each one is a reminder of the passion and commitment of the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken action to stop Big Media. Every click counts, every phone call matters, and every visit makes an impact.

I can’t help but imagine, “What if that day of action is followed up by thousands of phone calls and hundreds of thousands of letters? What if together we made so much noise that no politician this election year would dare defend another handout to Big Media?”

Well, we have a few weeks to find out. Yesterday was a big success, but we have a lot of work left ahead of us if we are going to win this fight.

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