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Senators Urge Slower Timetable for FCC Review of Media Ownership Rules

Oct 18, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin’s proposal to conclude the agency’s review of media ownership rules and issue new rules by year’s end is drawing a new attack from two senators as well as public-interest groups.
FCC officials confirmed that Mr. Martin had proposed a timetable for consideration that would detail changes by Nov. 13, but denied a report that any specific changes were already under consideration.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., warned about the timetable, saying it wouldn’t give adequate time for the FCC to complete and examine the results of its own ongoing study about the effect on station programming and commitment of losing local ownership.
“We do not believe the commission had adequately studied the impact of media consolidation on local programming,” the senators said in a letter to Mr. Martin today. “We firmly believe that 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 that would relax the existing rules governing media ownership.”
The senators suggested a slower timetable that would put any ownership rule changes off until the FCC has completed the local ownership study, offered recommendations from that and provided 90 days for people to comment on that study.
The FCC is re-examining media ownership rules in the wake of a 2004 appellate court ruling throwing out rules adopted under former FCC chairman Michael Powell. The rules determine how many stations a company can own in a market and whether one company can own both the local newspaper and local stations; they also can impact minority ownership of broadcast stations.
The appellate court rejected the last attempt to rewrite the rules mainly because the FCC hadn’t adequately sought public comment in developing them.
The senators today warned Mr. Martin that the push forward could indicate the agency was headed down the same road.
“The FCC should not rush forward and repeat mistakes of the past,” they said, warning that the agency’s “dubious track record makes it all the more imperative the FCC conducts a transparent and judicious process.”
Andy Schwartzman, director of the Media Access Project, the public-interest law firm that won the last appeal, also warned that a quick conclusion would put the FCC on the same path as last time.
“Proposing rules in mid-November, accepting comments in early December and voting on Dec. 18 certainly gives rise to a sense of deja vu,” Mr. Schwartzman said.

4 Comments

  1. Here we go again…the rich get richer, the media control of the air waves goes to a few chosen rich men.
    Consolidate stations, jobs, operations etc…put people out of work….I’m a victim…lost job in Boston when Sunbeam bought out Tribune..
    Ridiculous….local media and local coverage slowly disappearing…..
    Write your congressman…let’s stop this…before you lose your job too!!!

  2. I listened to the FCC hearings they had here in Chicago over the Internet on Sept. 20. It seems that the chairman didn’t listen – or cared to listen – to the angry crowd that is fed up with the media. To the FCC, unless you’re a parent who is only concerned about profanity on TV – you don’t matter.

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