Telecommunications Industry Has Lavished FCC Commissioners with Millions of Dollars in Travel Gifts; FCC Commissioner Michael Copps Speaks at the Final Public Hearing Before FCC Overhauls Decades-Old Rules Governing Media Consolidation; The Peaceful Mbuti People Call on the UN to Prosecute Government and Rebel Fighters as Civil War Rages in the Congo
8:00-8:01 Billboard 8:01-8:06 Headlines 8:06-8:07 One Minute Music Break 8:07-8:15: Federal Communications Commission officials have been showered with nearly $2.8 million in travel and entertainment gifts over the past eight years and most of those gifts are from the telecommunications and broadcast companies the agency is supposed to regulate. A new study released today by the Center for Public Integrity found FCC staff members and commissioners accepted more than 2500 trips. Most of them were to convention hot spots, like Las Vegas and New Orleans. Destinations also included San Francisco, London, Aspen, Buenos Aires, the U.S. Virgin Islands. The National Association of Broadcasters in Washington topped the list of travel sponsors, paying for over 200 trips worth nearly $200,000. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association, came second, and third. All of the gifts appear to have been legal under government guidelines. But they raise questions about the FCC s neutrality. Not one consumer watchdog group has sponsored an FCC trip. And all of this comes as the FCC is poised to overhaul the decades-old rules governing media consolidation on June 2nd. Industry giants are lobbying for the overhaul, which experts say will unleash the largest wave of corporate media mergers the U.S. has ever seen. John Dunbar, project manager of the Center For Public Integrity s new report on the FCC, Well Connected Link: http://www.publicintegrity.org/dtaweb/report.asp?ReportID=524&L1=10&L2=1... =0&L5=0 8:20-8:21 One Minute Music Break 8:21-8:40: Last night was the final public hearing with FCC commissioners about the proposed overhaul of the rules governing media consolidation. The FCC is expected to pass the rules on June 2nd by a majority of one. FCC chairman Michael Powell son of Secretary of State General Powell strongly backs the rule changes. He is supported by the two other republicans on the Commission, and opposed by the Commission s two Democrats, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. The issue is not merely bureaucratic. Analysts say if FCC votes for the rule changes, it will unleash the largest wave of corporate media consolidation the US has ever seen. A single CEO could legally own the largest TV network, the largest radio conglomerate, the largest newspaper, and the largest Internet company in the country. Corporate media conglomerates lobbying for the rule changes include AOL Time Warner, which in addition to AOL and Time magazine owns HBO, CNN, and dozens of magazines; General Electric, which owns NBC; Disney, which owns ABC, and Viacom, which owns CBS; and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which owns Fox News and many other outlets. Consumer watchdogs, trade unions, and media activists have had a harder time making their voices heard. Powell has done everything he can to avoid holding public hearings on the issue. When Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps called on the FCC to conduct public hearings several months ago, Powell refused. Copps said he would hold hearings of his own, and in January, a coalition of trade unions and media activist groups held the first public hearing on the issue in New York City. Powell initially said he would not attend, but as public pressure mounted, he reversed course at the last minute. Another hearing at the University of Southern California was held in April and Powell did not attend. The FCC convened its only official hearing in Richmond, Virginia in February. The final hearing was held last night in Atlanta. Again, Powell and the other republican commissioners boycotted the hearing. Michael Copps, FCC Commissioner, speaking at the final public hearing on proposed changes to the rules governing media consolidation, Atlanta, May 22, 2003. Link: Democracy Now! archived FCC coverage including links to listen to the entire Atlanta FCC hearing: http://www.democracynow.org/FCC2.shtml 8:40-8:41 One Minute Music Break 8:41-8:58: The United Nations has asked France to lead a peacekeeping force in the mineral-rich Ituri region of Congo, amid reports of growing atrocities in fighting between rival factions there. The UN has also asked Britain to join the force. A few days ago, aid workers reported finding the bodies of more than 200 people killed on the streets of the provincial capital Bunia, including women and children. Some of them were decapitated and the hearts, livers and lungs were missing in others. Two U.N. aid workers were also killed this week. Rival factions are engaged in a bloody civil war, and they are backed by the neighboring states of Uganda and Rwanda. While much of the world s attention has been focused on elsewhere, millions of people have died in the war. Between 1998 and 2000, the International Rescue Committee estimates that close to 3 million people lost their lives to war, starvation and disease in the country. Numerous countries have been involved in the civil war, all of them vying for a piece of the nation s natural resources. At one stage six African nations had troops in the Congo, plundering the country's resources of diamonds, gold and oil and lending support to rival factions. The Ituri region is also rich in resources. Apart from the region's farmland and valuable cross-border trade, Ituri is the gateway to the Kilo Moto gold field, the world's largest. A Candian company, Barrick Gold, claims it owns the exploration rights to the gold mine. Former President George Bush Sr. serves as senior advisor to Barrick Gold s board of directors. Interest is also rising in Ituri's oil reserves in the Lake Albert basin. The company Heritage Oil signed a licensing deal last year. It is part-owned by British entrepreneur Tony Buckingham. The fighting in the Ituri region is between the Lendu and the Hema factions. But many of the civilians whose bodies have been mutilated were not members of either group. They were peaceful Mbuti people. We re joined right now by Sinafasi Makelo, who is a Mbuti spokesman. He is in New York to demand the United Nations prosecute government and rebel fighters. Sinafasi Makelo, a representive of the Mbuti people with the organization Support Action for the Protection of the Rights of Minorities in Central Africa DRC. He is also on the board of directors for Land is Life. He is forming an alliance of communities and is trying to organize a conference on the violence against the Mbuti in the Congo in December. The Mbuti people are also known as pygmys. Link: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=7160&Cr=DR&Cr1=Congo Tshimanga John Metzel, country conditions expert with Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and also works with the Congo Educational Council Links: http://www.geocities.com/rainforest/canopy/3048/, www.lchr.org 8:58-8:59 Outro and Credits Democracy Now! is produced by Kris Abrams, Mike Burke, Angie Karran, Sharif Abdul Kouddous, Ana Nogueira, Elizabeth Press with help from Noah Reibel and Vilka Tzouras. Mike Di Filippo is our music maestro and engineer. Thanks also to Uri Galed, Angela Alston, Emily Kunstler, Orlando Richards, Simba Rousseau, Rafael delaUz, Gabriel Weiss, Johnny Sender, Rich Kim, Karen Ranucci, Fatima Mojadiddy, Denis Moynihan and Jenny Filipazzo.