Kerry eyes a trimmer U.S. media

Senator vows to oppose conglom mergers as prez

This article was updated at 7:32 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Sen. John Kerry is no fan of mega-mergers and big media, even though he boasts plenty of powerful friends at some of the largest congloms in the country.

Just one day after touting his business endorsements from such media heavies as News Corp.’s Peter Chernin, Paramount’s Sherry Lansing and Viacom’s Tom Freston, Democratic presidential nominee Kerry told an audience of minority journalists Thursday that he opposed the idea of big media conglomerates growing even bigger.

“I’m against the ongoing push for media consolidation,” he said during a Q&A at the Unity 2004 conference. “It’s contrary to the stronger interests of the country.”

Kerry went on to say he believes the Federal Communications Commission’s decision last year to relax rules governing media concentration should be reversed. If he were president, he said, he would pursue a media policy seeking as diverse and broad an ownership as possible.

“It is critical to who we are as free people,” he said firmly. “It’s critical to our democracy.”

Despite Chernin’s support, Kerry took time to promote the News Corp./Fox News-bashing docu “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism” and to grouse about the nets’ decisions to cover only a few hours of last week’s Democratic National Convention.

“I don’t know how many of you have seen ‘Outfoxed’ or some of the other things that are going around,” Kerry said. “You can make your own judgments about it. But I will say this, and I think most of you know it: A lot of what is decided with respect to news and coverage — just look at the convention last week.

“I thought Barack Obama gave a brilliant speech. America missed it, with the exception of cable outlets.

“If it’s all driven by money, we’re in trouble,” he added. “I’m going to make sure we have diversity.”

Earlier in the speech, Kerry played to his aud, pledging to help expand opportunities for minorities to work for and own media outlets by appointing FCC commissioners committed to enforcing equal employment laws and ensuring that small, minority-owned broadcasters are not consolidated into extinction.

The news may come as some surprise to the business execs endorsing Kerry, a list of whom he unveiled Wednesday at an economic summit in Iowa.

In addition to Chernin, Lansing and Freston, other major players in the entertainment world on the list include Warner Music Group topper Edgar Bronfman Jr., as well as his father, Edgar Bronfman Sr.; Sony Pictures Entertainment topper Michael Lynton and Sony Motion Picture Group chair Amy Pascal; entertainment mogul Kirk Kerkorian; DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg; Oxygen Media topper Geraldine Laybourne; retired Time Warner chieftain Gerald Levin; Discovery Communications prexy Judith McHale; Saban Capital Group topper Haim Saban; Nickelodeon Networks exec veep Marva Smalls; and Miramax co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein.