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Powell Plan In Process

May 12, 2003  •  Post A Comment

At deadline, it appeared that top Federal Communications Commission officials would not receive FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s official recommendations on proposed revisions to the media ownership rules until sometime Monday. Mr. Powell recently said he wanted to share the proposals with his colleagues by the end of last week to give them more than the usual three weeks of notice before the agency’s June 2 vote on the regulations. But the proposals were apparently still being worked on Friday.
The Senate Commerce Committee, meanwhile, announced media ownership hearings for Tuesday. Among the key witnesses will be Viacom President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin. Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., and other lawmakers who have expressed concerns about the FCC’s deregulation plans had hoped to require the testimony of the agency’s commissioners at the session. But a well-placed source said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the committee’s chairman, declined to go along with the plan. “We don’t have the chairman and we don’t have the majority of the committee with us right now,” Sen. Hollings said in an interview.
Also last week, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, one of the agency’s two Democrats, announced a press briefing for Tuesday afternoon to react to GOP FCC Chairman Powell’s confidential deregulatory proposals.
In yet another move on the ownershp front, a coalition of lawmakers led by Rep. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., introduced legislation that would bar the FCC from raising the cap that currently prohibits broadcasters from buying TV stations reaching more than 35 percent of the nation’s TV homes. A coalition of House Democrats that includes Rep. Dingell and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., also asked the FCC to explain what role it played in a recent letter to the agency from Belo Chairman and CEO Robert Decherd in which he broke ranks with fellow affiliates by offering to endorse raising the cap to 45 percent in exchange for agency support of an affiliate’s right to pre-empt network programming and other deregulation that Belo backs.