Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 10:58am
SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE PASSES BILL BACK TO BLOCK FCC'S DEC 18 VOTE
[SOURCE: Broadcasting&Cable, AUTHOR: John Eggerton]
The Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to block a Federal Communications Commission vote Dec. 18 on loosening its ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. During brief discussion of the bill, sponsor Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) referred to a document from the chief counsel of the FCC "dug out with a FOIA request" by a group in Georgetown. "This document is an attempt to share some thoughts and ideas I have about how the FCC can approach relaxing newspaper broadcast crossownership," he said. "In this section I will discuss some studies that might provide valuable input to support relaxation." Sen Dorgan said that the document showed that "they started the whole thing by saying 'all right, we're going to try to figure out how we can do this rather than trying to figure out 'is this a good thing to do' " The bill now goes before the full Senate.
* Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii): "Transparency in the FCC’s media ownership proceedings is not only fair, it is right. This bill encourages the FCC to provide a forum for meaningful discussion and brings us a step closer to balanced media ownership rules.”
* Senate Bill Would Delay FCC Media Vote
* Senate Panel Seeks to Delay FCC Media-Consolidation Plan
* Senate panel OKs bill to delay FCC ownership plan
Tribune waivers trigger if the FCC approves the rule change before Jan. 1, giving Tribune relief as public interest groups are expected to sue in court to block their implementation. But a delay in the FCC vote would not hurt Tribune. The company also could itself trigger the temporary waivers by challenging the FCC's denial of its request for permanent waivers. Tribune may do that in the coming days to settle its regulatory situation for the deal's lenders instead of waiting for a Dec. 18 vote that could be delayed.
* Monkeywrench? U.S. Senate Panel Opposes FCC Plan to Give Tribune, Others, Waivers
* Minority concerns fuel push to delay FCC consolidation vote
Andrew Schwartzman, one of twelve panelists scheduled to testify before the subcommittee today, said that loosening current rules would hurt minority media ownership. As president and CEO of Media Access Project, a media advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., Schwartzman said the new rules are vaguely packaged and the public is unaware of the significance of the changes. "These rules appear more benign than what they really are," Schwartzman said. "The FCC has portrayed it as a modest change when in fact it is a very major change."
* Obama: FCC Must Slow Down
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL): The Federal Communications Commission must not be allowed to "move forward with regulatory changes through leaks to the press and closed-door meetings.... The more the rules let media outlets fall into the hands of big media conglomerates, the less likely our leaders are to be responsive to the public’s needs and, in particular, the needs of minority communities. The FCC needs to meet its obligations to diverse communities and ensure that broadcasters are doing right by the communities they operate in before it considers loosening any media-ownership regulations."
* Consumer Groups Applaud Media Ownership Act
"Chairman Martin’s policymaking-by-press release has run into a brick wall of bipartisan opposition in Congress,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. “This important legislation promises to redirect the FCC’s moral compass toward the long-ignored issues of media diversity and localism. The Senate has joined the American public in demanding that the FCC protect the public interest and shelve its plans for handouts to corporate media companies."