Earlier this month, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) made everyone feel real awkward when she busted the door down at FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's re-nomination hearing. After snapping the elastic bands on several prominent senators' party hats, Boxer whipped out a 2004 FCC study on localism in the media that she believes was purposely buried. Unfortunately, the Senator delivered her speech next to a stack of amps and could not be heard above the pounding trance music.
Boxer remained unfazed and returned a week later, clutching another unreleased report on media ownership from 2003. The study found that "between March 1996 and March 2003, there was a 35% decrease in the number of radio owners," and that the largest owner, Clear Channel, "went from owning 62 stations in 1996, to 1,233 in 2003." Chairman Martin noted that he was not in charge at the time of the reports and tried to turn the stereo back on, but Senator Boxer slapped his hand away.
Since the discovery of the missing reports, a group of 34 House Democrats joined Boxer in requesting an all-out cavity search of the possible motivations behind the documents' concealment. In a joint letter to FCC Inspector General Kent Nilsson, the Democrats wrote: "If one or both of these reports were suppressed because they did not support official FCC policy, such actions could not only constitute fraud, but could also run counter to the FCC's stated goals of transparency and public involvement in its media ownership proceedings."
Representative David Price (D-NC) felt like adding a slam dunk of his own, and whispered, "Good public policy is supposed to reflect what is best for the American people. If the FCC can't be trusted to present the results of its own studies to the public, how can it be trusted to act in the public's interest when it comes to the ownership of our airwaves?" Price then winked at everyone and did a moonwalk out of the building.
Chairman Martin has now expressed equal concern over these issues and promises to release an updated report on media ownership before the end of the legal proceedings. If anyone needs to reach him before then, he will be sitting in his bedroom with the blinds drawn.