Next stop: The floor of the Senate, for S.J. Res. 28, which will strip the effect from the FCC’s 12/18/07 liberalization of media cross-ownership caps. There was no debate, and no impediment from any member of the Commerce Committee from either party.
The driving force behind that bill was Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who thanked the members for their support. He noted that the committee had specifically asked the FCC to hold off on consideration of the matter until the public had a chance for further comment, and said that allowing any further loosening of the ownership rules is a move in the wrong direction.
Dorgan said, "If we allow the FCC to relax its media cross-ownership rules, we will be doing the people of America a great disservice. Diverse, independent and local media sources are essential to ensuring that the public has access to a variety of information." He indicated he’ll be working closely with Senate leadership from both parties to get the measure down to the floor.
RBR/TVBR observation: Whether you agree with the FCC’s action or not, there really wasn’t any need for further public comment. How much is left to say at this point? The call for another round of input was really little more than a stalling tactic, and there are plenty of other stalling tactics in place even as we speak — including S.J. Res. 28.
For starters, Martin — who has long been an outspoken advocate of eliminating newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules, really did seem to think he had offered a modest proposal. It only affects the top 20 DMAs, and all other deregulatory elements from Michael Powell’s earlier attempts were deep-sixed, in deference to the preponderance of public testimony received on the topic. But Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps quickly pointed out that the top 20 DMAs encompass over 40% of the total US population, and many others demonstrated zero tolerance for further deregulation of any kind or degree.
The FCC rules are once again facing court challenge both from those who think they went to far and those who think they did not go far enough.