Dorgan bill in the Congressional hopper


Byron Dorgan’s (D-ND) "Media Ownership Act of 2007" is officially on paper, and it’s taken on three more co-sponsors. The first thing the bill would do is take the FCC’s 12/18/07 Open Meeting out of play as a possible vote date on Martin’s published cross-ownership proposal, moving the first possible date back to mid-May 2008 at the earliest.

The FCC must allow 90 days after publication of any proposal, 60 for public comment and 30 for reply comments. Any rule voted on by the commissioners initiated after 10/1/07 and failing to meet this requirement "shall be of no force and effect." That by itself would move the vote to February at the earliest.
But the FCC would be required to allow 90 days for comment and reply after it fulfills a requirement to "initiate, conduct, and complete a separate rulemaking proceeding to promote the broadcast of local programming and content by broadcasters, including radio and television broadcast stations, and newspapers," including a specific study of broadcast/print cross-ownership. That gets us to May at the earliest. The bill also calls for the establishment of an independent panel to "make recommendations" to increase broadcast ownership by women and minorities.

Co-sponsors include Joe Biden (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Kerry (D-MA), Trent Lott (R-MS), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Barack Obama (D-IL), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

RBR/TVBR observation: The stall is on even though Martin maintained status quo on most of the Third Circuit remand and acted in a limited fashion in an area of cross-ownership, where the Court indicated some sympathy for relaxed regulation. We don’t know about you, but we’d say there is zero-tolerance for any discussion of updating media ownership rules on Capitol Hill right now. We’ll have to see how long it takes to get this bill into a Commerce Committee mark-up, and how long it takes to get a companion bill kicked off in the House.