Dorgan measure sailed through on voice vote


The first time Byron Dorgan (D-ND) took his anti-consolidation FCC-thwarting Resolution of Disapproval to the Senate Floor, it required a roll call. This time, the ayes simply drowned out the nays, with no further formalities required. That didn’t stop the NAB from protesting and the Bush administration from threatening a veto. But watchdogs and the two Democratic FCC commissioners couldn’t have been more pleased.

The White House OMB said it supported the FCC’s action allowing broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership in the top 20 DMAs. “To disapprove this rule and require the Federal government to reassert regulatory constraints on business decisions in a competitive media marketplace would exacerbate financial challenges facing newspapers and broadcast stations and thus not be in the public interest,” wrote OMB, which added that senior administrative officials would recommend a veto should the bill make it to the Oval Office.

NAB’s Dennis Wharton said, "NAB strongly opposes efforts to overturn the FCC’s exceedingly modest reforms made to media ownership rules. We are hopeful that policymakers ultimately come to fully appreciate the seismic changes in the media landscape over the last three decades, and stand down on this unnecessary proposal."

That contrasts with the views of Jonathan Adelstein, who said, “The FCC veered dangerously off-course from the American mainstream, so our elected representatives are trying to steer us back. This unequivocal, bipartisan rebuke of the FCC is a wake-up call for us to serve the public rather than the media giants we oversee.”

Michael Copps added, “The Senate spoke for a huge majority of Americans last night by voting to overturn the flawed FCC decision gutting our long-standing ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership.  With courageous leaders like Senator Byron Dorgan, the Senate has struck a blow for localism and diversity in a media environment crying out for more of both."

RBR/TVBR observation: This bill should sail through the House, too, but it may not be smooth sailing if it comes down to a veto override. Meanwhile, the issue is also in the court system, and by the time it gets through there, there may be a new White House occupant with less antipathy to the measure, and that’s regardless of which party takes up residence. Both Democratic candidates are co-sponsors of the Dorgan measure, and while John McCain (R-AZ) disapproved of the tactic the first time around, he was not philosophically opposed to its purpose. This remains very much an undone deal.