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Kerry, Obama Threaten to Block Funding If Martin Doesn’t Delay FCC Vote

Dec 14, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Sens. John Kerry and Barack Obama issued an ultimatum to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin about moving ahead with a vote on media ownership changes next week: If he proceeds, they’ll try to block any government money being spent to implement the new rule.
The Massachusetts Democrat and the Illinois Democrat previously have been critical of Mr. Martin’s request to alter media ownership; Sen. Kerry confronted Mr. Martin at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday. However, this latest move steps up the rhetoric as the FCC readies to vote Tuesday on a change.
Mr. Martin has proposed the FCC ease its current ban on cross-ownership, or newspapers and broadcasters buying each other in a market. Under the proposal, the FCC generally would allow cross-ownership in the top 20 markets and not allow it in other markets; however, media companies may be granted waivers in smaller markets if cross-ownership would lead to more TV news. A newspaper could buy only a TV station that is not among the top four in the market.
Sen. Kerry on Thursday questioned whether enough consideration had been given to the impact of the proposal on minority- and women-owned businesses and their ability to acquire broadcast properties.
Others have questioned whether the FCC had adequately researched the impact that consolidation and loss of local ownership might have on the availability of local programming and information.
In today’s letter, the two senators again called for the FCC to delay its vote, warning the change “could have a direct and detrimental impact on the state of media diversity,” but they added a kicker: They will ask the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to add to an appropriations bill language banning the FCC from spending any money implementing any changes.
“We reiterate our call for you to delay this vote for a period of time sufficient for the commission to examine the status of minority and women media ownership in the United States and to establish a policy to effectively address the need to promote greater diversity in media markets,” they said.
“We recognize the widespread animosity aimed at the direction of the commission regarding Tuesday’s scheduled vote. We understand that for a variety of reasons you are being asked to postpone the vote to permit more time for the commission to fully understand how a relaxation in the cross-ownership rule will impact other important issues such as localism.
“It is our hope that the sum of these objections will convince you to delay this vote. … Should you decide to move forward with this vote against the expressed bipartisan, bicameral intent of Congress, we will approach Appropriations Chairman [Robert] Byrd with a request that funds be denied for the implementation of this rule.”
An FCC spokesman declined comment on the letter.

2 Comments

  1. Good, I am happy that pressure is being put on Martin to pospone the vote. There definately needs to be more time given to study the implications of what Mr. Martin wants to do so quickly. Personally, I don’t like this new change at all. I think it limits our news rather than providing us with all types of news from all different perspectives. Senator Kerry has been concerned about this matter for a while now and I think his actions to cut funding is a move in the right direction. I applaud Senator Obama for backing Senator Kerry up on this situation.

  2. Amazing freakin blog here. I almost cried while reading it!

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