It was only a matter of time before key members of the House of Representatives joined the chorus of senators who are urging FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to apply the brakes before taking action on his plan to allow cross-owned combinations in the nation’s largest markets. The dynamic Democratic duo is House Energy and Commerce Committee chair John Dingell (D-MI) and key Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet chair Ed Markey (D-MA). Dingell said he reserved judgment on Martin’s proposal, and commended him for releasing the details in advance of an FCC vote (unlike Michael Powell back on 6/2/03). However, he added, "I have serious concerns…that the timeline you have set forth is insufficient to allow for meaningful comment and evaluation of comments on the proposed rule." He complains about the lack of a window for reply comments and a mere week for commissioners to review comments. He called the proposal "a grave matter" and said he looked forward to discussing it next month at a hearing.
Markey’s comments were simpler. He said, "Chairman Martin’s media ownership proposal deserves the utmost scrutiny. Localism, diversity and competition are critical values in our national media policy. I urge Chairman Martin to ensure that the Congress and the public have an ample opportunity to review and comment on how any changes to FCC media ownership rules may affect these vital public policy objectives."
RBR/TVBR observation: Martin is on record with his conviction that ample time has been devoted to studying the issue, that years have been allowed for commentary, that meetings have been held from east to west and from large market to small. However, we think it is a given that Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) will have no problem getting a House companion bill for his effort to force Martin to hit the brakes. Such a bill would be unlikely to inspire a filibuster in the Senate, but would George W. Bush sign it? If Martin proceeds, with Dorgan and his allies take more drastic measures?