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Inouye in Line for Hollings’ Role

Aug 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The bad news for watchdog groups last week was that Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., a longtime champion of their causes on the Senate Commerce Committee, announced he won’t seek re-election next year.
The good news, however, is that Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who has a reputation as a watchdog for public-interest concerns involving the media industry, is said to have the inside track to succeed Sen. Hollings as the committee’s ranking Democrat.
“[Sen. Inouye] has been very helpful to us on all of our issues,” said Chris Murray, legislative counsel for the Consumers Union.
As Commerce Committee leaders, both lawmakers for years have played major roles on media industry issues.
Sen. Hollings has served as the committee’s chairman at times, while Sen. Inouye has chaired the committee’s subcommittee on communications.
The two also have been longtime defenders of the rules to limit the power of media companies. Both recently endorsed efforts to roll back the Federal Communications Commission’s June 2 deregulation of its media ownership restrictions.
“Sen. Hollings and Sen. Inouye on a lot of fronts see things similarly,” said one key Senate source.
In his more than 30-year tenure with the commerce committee, Sen. Hollings has been a particularly strong defender of a regulation that bars broadcasters from buying daily newspapers in their market, a rule he propped up for years with riders on appropriations bills.
But in a statement last week, Sen. Hollings, who was first elected to the Senate in 1966, said he had decided it was time to step down.
Despite Sen. Hollings’ impending departure, watchdog group representatives said the lawmaker would be around long enough to see through the legislative effort to overturn the FCC’s media ownership deregulation.
“He’s very much alive and he’s going to bite a lot of butts before he’s done,” said Andrew Schwartzman, president of the activist Media Access Project.
In a statement, National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Eddie Fritts said Sen. Hollings had been “a friend to free local broadcasting for 35 years.”
Robert Sachs, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president and CEO, said Sen. Hollings also warranted recognition for Telecommunications Act of 1996 provisions that “removed barriers to local telephone competition and made possible our industry’s $75 billion investment in broadband technology, benefiting tens of millions of American consumers.”