Dorgan runs into Catch-22


Yesterday Byron Dorgan (D-ND) was supposed to see which way his colleagues’ thumbs would be pointing on his Resolution of Disapproval, which would have prevented the FCC from enforcing its new relaxed rules on media cross-ownership. But the mark-up session on the Commerce Committee schedule has delayed 22 days, all the way to 4/24/08.

That didn’t stop one colleague from issuing a statement in advance. John Kerry said, "The [FCC] Chairman [Kevin Martin] had every opportunity to delay this rule so that the Commission could carefully consider how further consolidation might impact access to local content as well as the rapidly decreasing number of minority owned media outlets. After all, the FCC’s own reports indicated that not enough data exists on these issues to make an informed decision. Instead, we had a rush to judgment on the flimsiest of pretexts, claiming the rule was needed because the newspaper industry is in need of a lift. Well, it may very well need a lift, but the newspaper industry isn’t even regulated by the FCC, so I’m not sure why Chairman Martin considers that a valid reason for Commission action. Especially in the face of so much public opposition and against direct congressional intent."

On the other hand, also offering comments ahead of the vote was Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who told Commerce chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI) that the administration opposed legislative action to block the FCC action. Gutierrez is widely expected to advice a veto of the Resolution should it make it to the desk of President George W. Bush.

RBR/TVBR observation: This is getting to be like a game of multidimensional tennis. The media ownership rules are the ball, and everywhere you look there is somebody with a racket swinging wildly at it. There are broadcasters, newspaper owners, other media, associations, unions, watchdogs, the FCC, numerous other regulatory agencies, legislators, concerned individual citizens, judges, attorneys, lobbyists. The poor battered little media ownership tennis ball is being slammed just about everywhere except over the net for a point, much less arriving at the magical game, set and match endgame.

But it’s great for trade journalists. It’s the never-ending story. Hey, need we bother to say more to come?