Congress Vows to Fight FCC on Ownership Regs

Dec 18, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Congressional opponents of media consolidation are greeting the FCC’s vote to ease its media-ownership rules as a call to battle, and they are promising the fight isn’t over.
“We’re not done with this, not by a long shot,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., hours after the FCC vote.
Suggesting the vote was an example of “a commission bent on doing the bidding of big corporate interests at the expense of the American people,” Sen. Dorgan said he will offer legislation in the Senate to overturn it.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., meanwhile, said he would try to prevent the FCC from spending funds to enforce the rule change.
“By rushing through this vote today, Chairman Martin did the bidding of big corporate interests and threatened to further marginalize independent media, directly limit diversity and damage America’s public discourse,” said Sen. Kerry. “Chairman Martin was warned that ignoring the will of the Commerce Committee would have consequences, and I will work hard to ensure that the FCC’s funding reflects Chairman Martin’s decision to go against the commission’s own charter and limit media diversity rather than foster it.”
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who had joined with Mr. Kerry in a letter delivering the earlier warning to Mr. Martin, suggested today that the FCC had “put big corporate interests ahead of the people’s interests.”
“I am disappointed that the FCC failed to meet its obligations to diverse communities and ensure that broadcasters are doing right by the communities in which they operate,” the presidential candidate said. “Congress will not stand by and allow the FCC to move forward with these regulatory changes, and I will urge my colleagues to push forward legislation that ensures any changes will be evaluated and modified in a transparent and inclusive process, and fully takes into account the interests of our women and minority-owned outlets, and communities.”
In the House, Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee telecom committee, expressed disappointment and concern that the FCC at the last minute added to the proposal waivers allowing media companies to keep newspapers and broadcasters in the same town.
“I am disappointed that the FCC did not give these media ownership proposals additional time for full review by the public and Congress,” he said. “I am particularly concerned about the process by which last-minute waivers were granted to dozens of existing media combinations without public input.”
Mr. Markey said he wanted the FCC “to make concrete progress” on minority media ownership issues and promoting localism in media policy and intends to press the commission to take action.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., expressed some hope that the FCC’s funding to enforce the rule would be quickly removed in appropriations bills.
The rule approval also drew criticism from the Parents Television Council, which warned consolidation created a potential conflict of interest.
“Experience has shown us that newspapers do not take TV or radio stations to task when they are jointly owned by the same media conglomerate,” the group said.


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