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Senate Seen Passing Resolution on Rules

Sep 15, 2003  •  Post A Comment

In what could be another blow to the Federal Communications Commission, proponents of legislation to overturn the FCC’s media ownership deregulation were predicting Senate approval Tuesday of a resolution that would overturn all of the FCC’s media ownership rulings. But the White House has threatened a veto and the bill’s prospects remain uncertain in the House of Representatives.
The House and the Senate Appropriations Committee have already approved appropriations legislation that includes a rider that would overturn one of the FCC’s media ownership decisions for one year: a ruling to raise the cap on national TV ownership from 35 percent to 45 percent of the nation’s homes. Included in the Senate resolution, sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is a provision reversing an FCC decision that would clear the way for broadcasters to buy daily newspapers in their markets.
In a statement last week, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget said the Bush administration “strongly opposes” the Dorgan resolution and that the president’s senior advisers would recommend a veto if the measure were approved by Congress.
Among other things, OMB said the resolution would negate two years of “careful study” and “detailed analysis” by the Republican-dominated FCC, creating significant regulatory uncertainty.
“The administration believes that the new FCC local and national media ownership rules more accurately reflect the changing media landscape and the current state of network station ownership, while guarding against undue concentration in the marketplace,” the OMB said in its statement.
Assuming it is approved by the Senate, the resolution is supposed to go directly to the House floor, even though key house Republican leaders have made clear their opposition to an FCC override and industry lobbyists expect them to do their best to block a vote.
But Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog Center for Digital Democracy, said network lobbyists are “shaking in their Guccis, because a strong vote on Tuesday will pressure a similar supportive vote in the House.”
At a press briefing last week, Sen. Dorgan and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said lawmakers have received hundreds of thousands of appeals from the public to overturn the FCC rules.
“The FCC ignored the public in their process,” Sen. Dorgan said. “In Congress, the public will be heard, and the public interest will be served.”
Added Sen. Lott, in last week’s debate on the resolution on the Senate floor, “This is about doing what’s right and in the best interest of the American people.”