Kerry Slams Networks, Notes Cable DNC Coverage

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Washington -- One day after being endorsed by News Corp. president Peter Chernin, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry scolded the broadcast networks’ time constraints on their coverage of last week’s Democratic National Convention in Boston.

In remarks to minority journalists here Thursday, Kerry indicated displeasure with the time he was allotted for his convention speech last Thursday and noted that the networks skipped speeches by his wife Teresa, Ronald P. Reagan and Illinois U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama.

“I thought Barack Obama gave a brilliant speech. America missed it. America missed it, with the exception of cable outlets,” Kerry told a group called UNITY: Journalists of Color Inc. “Because broadcast decided to cover these certain hours, I had something like 3 million people watch, versus 7 million on a certain night.”

Many political pundits said Kerry rushed through his speech because the networks said they would cut away at 11 p.m. to allow their affiliates to run scheduled local-news programs.

Network officials have argued that the conventions are nothing more than newsless infomercials and that gavel-to-gavel coverage is unnecessary when viewers can turn to cable news outlets and click on Web sites.

Kerry said he lamented the fact that the broadcast networks favored their primetime schedules over the convention, apparently because convention coverage would cost them advertising money.

“These are moments I think America ought to share. If we are going to be a strong democracy, and it’s all driven by money, we’re in trouble,” Kerry said. “I am going to make sure we have diversity.”

In June, the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission relaxed media-ownership rules that came under strong attack on Capitol Hill. A federal court stayed the rules and later sent them back to the FCC as inadequately justified.

“The concentration of power still remains, I think, a very significant issue. I was in favor of the rollback. I voted against the expansion,” Kerry said.

In March, Kerry voted by proxy in the Senate Commerce Committee for an amendment that called for freezing the FCC’s new media-ownership rules while the Government Accountability Office studied the connection, if any, between media ownership and broadcast-indecency violations. The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), passed 13-10.

Without mentioning possible candidates, Kerry said he would name people to the FCC who shared his outlook on media ownership.

“I will appoint people to the FCC and I will pursue a policy that tries to have as diverse and as broad an ownership as possible,” he said. “It’s critical [to] who we are as a free people. It’s critical to our democracy.”

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