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Senators Warn FCC on Media-Ownership Rewrite

Dec 5, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Nine senators are urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin to put off consideration of new media-ownership rules until the agency finishes its long delayed examination of how local ownership of media outlets affects content.

In a signal that the FCC can perhaps expect greater oversight from the freshly reconstituted Congress, nine members of the Senate Commerce Committee signed the letter, which was made public Tuesday. The committee oversees the FCC.

The bipartisan letter prepared by U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, was also signed by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J, Trent Lott, R-Miss., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, all members of the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees the FCC.

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell launched the so-called localism study in 2003 but after holding four of six scheduled hearings, never completed it. Mr. Martin has promised to incorporate the localism finding in the current review of media ownership. The senators yesterday called the study “a critical component” in evaluating ownership changes and warned not finishing it “would cause us grave concern.”

“The localism proceeding is and should be a distinct proceeding and the hearings should be completed and specific findings and recommendations should be made.” The senators said in the letter.

“The FCC must first establish that there are sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure that broadcasters are serving their local communities before considering any changes to the ownership rules.”

An FCC spokesman said Mr. Martin is reviewing the letter and will respond to the senators.