FCC Schedules Media Ownership for Next Week

Nov 2, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission has taken one of the final steps toward completing its media ownership review by year end, even as Congress delivers new warnings about the timetable and any easing of ownership rules.
The FCC on Friday announced the last of its six media ownership hearings will be held Nov. 9 in Seattle, a move that would put the FCC on track to meet Chairman Kevin J. Martin’s proposed timetable for the agency’s finishing the more than 18-month-long review by year end.
Under the timetable, the FCC would propose new rules publicly in mid-November and vote on them in December.
That timetable required the FCC to very quickly schedule one hearing on whether programming and community service suffer when stations are not locally owned, as well the final media ownership hearing. Both were scheduled within two weeks.
In comments filed today, consumer groups urged the FCC not to ease rules; they suggested some ownership rules are already too loose and should be tightened.
Broadcasters and their associations have called for easing rules, especially those that prevent TV broadcasters and newspapers in the same city from owning each other and those preventing broadcasters in smaller and medium-sized cities from owning more than one TV station.
Some powerful members of the House of Representatives today stepped up the pressure on the FCC to go slowly on media ownership changes, scheduling an unusual December House committee hearing and issuing new warnings to the FCC.
“The decision about how many media outlets can be owned by one person or company is not a decision to be taken lightly,” said House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. He announced a Dec. 6 hearing by the panel’s telecom committee as well as its oversight and investigations panel.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of that panel, said he wanted to closely examine FCC procedures in the ownership review.
“I intend to look carefully at how the FCC has approached media ownership issues and ensure that the FCC’s media ownership studies provide a balanced accounting of the facts, not one-sided justification for more media concentration,” he said.
The Seattle hearing’s quick scheduling brought a sharp denunciation from Democratic commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who in a statement called it “outrageous” and said, “This smells.”
“Clearly, the rush is on to push media consolidation to a quick and ill-considered vote. It shows there is a pre-ordained outcome. Pressure from the public and their elected representatives is ignored. With such short notice, many people will be shut out. We received notice of the hearing just moments before it was announced. This is outrageous and not how important media policy should be made,” they said.

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