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Copyright 2001 The Seattle Times Company  
The Seattle Times

January 2, 2001, Tuesday Fourth Edition

SECTION: ROP ZONE; Opinion; Pg. B4

LENGTH: 362 words

HEADLINE: Choose public-minded regulators at FCC, SEC

AS the new Bush administration takes shape, keep a close eye on second- and third-tier nominees for regulatory commissions, such as the Federal Communications and Security and Exchange commissions.

While relegated to the business segments of various media and followed closely by captains of the industries most affected, consumers have a huge stake in leadership of these agencies.

President-elect George W. Bush should keep that in mind as he selects people for these jobs, choosing experienced pros who have demonstrated a clear sense of allegiance to the larger public, not just the industry they will regulate.

At the SEC, Chairman Arthur Levitt will resign in February after eight years at the helm. His tenure is marked by a new openness in U.S. stock exchanges. Transparency and disclosure are standards in today's stock market, not goals to aim for.

Levitt took on Wall Street insiders in his efforts to improve investor access to better information and prices in both the stock and bond markets. As individual investors flocked to the market, his leadership at the SEC helped sustain widespread public confidence.

Similarly, the public interest is at stake in appointments to the FCC. There's a tussle at the agency and within the industry over maintaining the 25-year ban on common ownership of print and broadcast outlets in one market. Media conglomerates want an end to the ban. Such a move would go right to the bottom line of media companies and against the interests of consumers.

Information consumers are best served by a cacophony of independent and competing news outlets, not by media mergers that lead inevitably to cross-ownership, often by out-of-town conglomerates, of televison, radio and newspapers.

Current FCC Chairman William Kennard has held the line against ending the ban on cross-ownership, but the five-member commission is divided on the topic. Bush, his advisers and key members of Congress should see that the next head of the FCC also puts the public interest--diversity of media ownership--before that of corporate executives bent on mergers and media cross-ownership in communities across America. 

LOAD-DATE: January 3, 2001

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