25 Senators Promise to Block Changes to Media Ownership Rules

Dec 17, 2007  •  Post A Comment

A bipartisan group of 25 senators has issued a new warning to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin as the maneuvering intensifies in advance of Tuesday’s scheduled media ownership vote: Unless he pulls back, they will quickly take steps to overturn any rules change.
In a letter Monday, senators led by Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., suggest Mr. Martin, in a “determined push to relax media ownership rules,” is giving short shrift to getting public comment on proposed changes and to studying the impact loss of local ownership could have.
The new letter may be the harshest yet to Mr. Martin, who is seeing his push for ownership changes color his relationship with Congress. Mr. Martin has proposed the FCC replace its current ban on newspapers and broadcasters buying each other in a market with a rule that generally allows such purchases in the top 20 markets and may allow them in smaller markets.
In the latest letter, the senators compare the amount of time the FCC is giving for public comment on the media-ownership proposal changes with the amount of time the agency gave to proposed new procedures for cell phone towers.
“When you proposed a new rule on the effects of communication towers on migratory birds, you allowed for a 90-day comment period,” said the letter. It said it was unreasonable to allow less than 30 days for the public comment on a rule with far greater potential impact.
“We believe [the short comment period] denies the American public any real ability for input and fails to reflect reasoned and transparent agency decision-making. We believe you have shortchanged the comment process and you have not completed a full review of localism,” the letter said.
“We are writing to notify you that if you proceed to take final action on Dec. 18, we will immediately move legislation that will revoke and nullify the proposed rule. We are notifying you and others in order to make certain you understand the consequences of ignoring the need for and the right of the American people to play a constructive role in attempts by a federal agency to change rules that have a substantial impact on the American people.”
In addition to Mr. Dorgan, the letter’s signers include the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee.
In the House, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s telecom committee, released information from the Government Accountability Office highlighting the lack of female- and minority-owned broadcast outlets in all markets. He also questioned going ahead with the vote on ownership.
“It is past time for the FCC to address our nation’s abysmal record on female- and minority-owned broadcast media,” Rep. Markey said. “The FCC should work diligently to address this important public policy matter soon.
“If the FCC proceeds with a vote tomorrow on media-ownership issues, I urge all the commissioners to weigh carefully the impact of any new rules or waiver standards on the historic policy values of diversity and localism,” he added.
An FCC spokeswoman declined comment.


  1. Someone needs to investigate whether Congress can be charged with violations of the RICO act, given they’re now acting more like Tony Soprano than a group of legislators.
    Threatening that they will immediately work to overturn a rule passed by a regulatory agency because they don’t like it.
    The Democrats are quick to crucify the Bush administration for allegedly influencing the EPA’s rule making, yet have no problem throwing their weight around when they disagree with a policy.
    Big shock there.

  2. Martin is one of the few bright spots for the Bush administration and now congress wants to appease fat cat cable and media lobbyists? Don’t believe for a second the Democrats are one iota less bought and sold than the GOP.
    Anyway, Martin is right on the 30% ownership rule on cable. He is right to push for cable cards, as well. Big cable has been raping the consumer for years and it will only get worse if they get bigger.
    Broadband in the United States is hideously expensive and slow compared to countries like Korea. The cable companies have negotiated lower programming prices and raised their prices to end users to raise their margins.And customer service is generally abysmal.

  3. The dearth of local programming occurring under existing multiple ownership is coming back to haunt broadcasters. There has to be better stewardship of the airwaves than seven stations in top ten metro’s all playing the same exact program. The same writers doing columns and editorials on the airwaves smacks of Nazi-like media control. We mustn’t loose sight of the fact that the airwaves are owned by the people and broadcast rights are GRANTED, and, come with a stewardship responsibility that calls for LOCAL coverage. Americans don’t have a single voice, nor want one from our media outlets. we need more diverse ownership, not less.

  4. Checks and balances. Our government is set up to check itself. Martin as the chairman is working to force the change to more consolidation. What’s the rush? Why truncate public comment?
    More consolidation doesn’t benefit local, smaller, and independent broadcasters. It just helps the big six.
    The airwaves are owned by the public. It the role of our elected officials to speak up for the democratic process, not the bureaucratic process. Everyone has an agenda. For the big six it’s profits – fine. But as their overall public interest programming is the same, it’s the job of our representatives, and the FCC to support policy that allows for diversity and alternative voices. Martin is not listening. what is his agenda? The challenge to his arm twisting by the senators is part of the process, the democratic one.

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