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Senators Offer Legislation Delaying FCC Consideration of Media Ownership

Nov 27, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The battle is being stepped up between Federal Communications Chairman Kevin J. Martin and congressional foes of media-ownership changes.
The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a vote for Dec. 4 on legislation that would effectively force Mr. Martin to delay FCC consideration of any ownership changes until sometime late next spring at the earliest.
The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and co-sponsored by Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss.; Barack Obama, D-Ill.; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; John Kerry, D-Mass.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Joe Biden, D-Del.; Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. (Sen. Lott on Monday announced he plans to leave Congress at year end.)
The legislation would require the FCC to conduct a study to determine how TV station duopolies and newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership impact the amount of local news, public affairs and cultural programming in a market, and then conduct a rule-making on the issue. Finally, it would provide for public comment on the report and any proposals.
The scheduling of a committee vote could put the legislation on a fast track toward Senate passage before the FCC votes on any ownership changes. However, the legislation would seem to need unusually swift congressional action to be enacted before the FCC votes on ownership, assuming Mr. Martin follows through with his current plan to vote at the FCC’s December meeting.
There are questions on whether the legislation could face a presidential veto. Also, there is no House vote scheduled on similar legislation.
The Senate Commerce Committee is slated to hold an FCC oversight committee that will be concerned with the ownership issues, but that hearing is set for Dec. 13.
The House Energy & Commerce Committee also has a hearing Dec. 6.

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