Sen. Rockefeller rips media industry at hearing on recent distribution fights


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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) blasted the media industry at a hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Although the topic of the hearing being held by the Senate Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet’s topic is supposed to be the recent rash of fights between broadcasters and cable operators over distribution agreements that have in many cases left consumers in the lurch, Rockefeller took aim at cable news and the entertainment industry.


Rockefeller is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the subcommittee. In remarks at the hearing, Rockefeller said that instead of a watchdog media, ‘we have endless barking of a 24-hour news cycle ... journalism that is always ravenous for the next rumor but insufficiently hungry for the facts that can nourish something called our democracy.’

The senator also took aim at Fox News Channel and MSNBC and suggested he wouldn’t mind if the Federal Communications Commission could make them both go away. ‘I hunger for quality news, I’m tired of the right and left,’ he said. Of course, as both Fox and MSNBC are cable channels, the FCC has little regulatory power over their content.

Rockefeller eventually got around to focusing on the issue at hand -- how cable and broadcasters negotiate deals to carry entertainment programming. He said he wants to know why consumers ‘have to pay for so many channels,’ when most people only watch a handful of networks. ‘We need slimmed-down channel packages,’ he said.

‘If you fail to fix this situation, we’re going to fix it for you,’ Rockefeller warned. If that happens, he added, the goal will be to do more than ‘referee your corporate money feuds.’

-- Joe Flint