FCC to hold media ownership hearing

Dec 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

In a surprise about-face, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell last week announced that the agency will hold a field hearing on its media ownership regulations sometime in February in Richmond, Va.
Late last month, Michael Copps, a Democratic FCC commissioner, vowed to hold a series of similar hearings on his own because Mr. Powell had failed to commit to the idea.
But in a statement last week, Mr. Powell said he believes a field hearing would be worthwhile as the agency considers easing or eliminating many of the regulations that limit media ownership. “I agree that a local public hearing can provide value to our proceedings,” the chairman said.
In the wake of the chairman’s announcement, Mr. Copps urged the agency to commit to additional sessions. But a spokesman said the Republican chairman, citing budgetary concerns, is only committed to a session in Richmond, with details about the session to be released later.
“This is a good step forward,” Mr. Copps said. “But I remain convinced we need to have other hearings in diverse venues to flesh out the record needed for this single most important decision the commission will make next year.”
When he announced his commitment to hold field hearings last month-with or without the participation of the chairman-Mr. Copps told reporters that Mr. Powell had been consistently “unenthusiastic” about the plan. At the time, a spokesman for Mr. Powell said, “If Mr. Copps thinks something can be gained from having hearings, he should feel free to do so.”
In his statement last week, Mr. Powell said the Richmond venue offers the agency an opportunity to solicit public opinion about deregulation in a midsize market.
“Severe budget constraints and a commitment not to further delay completion of this critical proceeding are also paramount considerations in conducting such a hearing and the choice of venues,” he said. “Conducting a hearing in Richmond appropriately balances those concerns.”