FCC will examine ownership regulation

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Risking the wrath of Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., the Federal Communications Commission is planning to launch rulemaking proceedings next month that could result in the elimination of a regulation barring broadcasters from acquiring daily newspapers in their markets.
Sen. Hollings, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has made clear his support for the rule. He has introduced legislation that would force the FCC to postpone any moves against the regulation for at least a year and half after the agency formally explains to Congress how any change would serve the public interest.
However, sources said FCC Chairman Michael Powell has decided to launch proceedings against the rule, perhaps at the agency’s next regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 13. In deference to Sen. Hollings’ concerns, the rulemaking is expected to stop short of actually recommending that the regulation be axed.
“The chairman has repeatedly said that the rules deserve a fresh look,” a source said. At deadline, Sen. Hollings was not available for comment. But Andy Davis, his spokesman, said the lawmaker believes the rule is reasonable and is needed to protect the public interest.
“To those who advocate further consolidation, I say prove your claims,” the lawmaker said at hearings he chaired on media consolidation in July. Industry lobbyists, however, said rulemaking proceedings are long overdue.
“The enormous changes in the marketplace … suggest strongly that it’s time for the FCC to take its first-ever re-examination of this rule,” said John Sturm, president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America. “If the FCC does so, I believe the record that will be assembled will overwhelmingly support elimination of this antiquated, unfair and obsolete rule.”