Grill session: Questions and answers


Here’s a selection of items of interest that came up under Congressional questioning of the five FCC Commissioners.
* Martin said that drawing the cross-ownership line at market 20 may appear arbitrary, but in fact that seemed to be a natural line of demarcation between markets with 10 or more independent owners and those with less.
* There was disagreement as to whether the waiver process for smaller markets was a high hurdle or a speed bump. Dems said the latter due to vague language, and Martin indicated a willingness to work with them to strengthen it.
* Asked by Fred Upton (R-MI) why he wasn’t deregulating further, Martin said cross-ownership rules have been dormant the longest and newspapers seem to have the greatest need, and court record and the preponderance of testimony against dereg indicated moving cautiously elsewhere. Upton thought allowing a bigger company into his small market would improve local news; Copps countered that what he’s heard in his travels is that distant owners come into a market and eliminate or curtail local coverage.
* Mike Doyle (D-PA) supported Copps claim that news is being dumbed down, citing lack of Pennsylvania coverage of Harrisburg FCC Forum, while Hugh Heffner comments on Anna Nicole Smith was highlighted in the same sources.
* Joe Barton (R-TX) wants more attention paid to broadcast/print deregulation, and is perplexed about attempts to add regulation to cable.
* Charles Gonzalez (D-TX) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) both demanded that minority ownership issue be dealt with before any further dereg is considered. Rush said he’s been hearing the same line on the issue since 1988, and that little or nothing has happened other than more rhetoric.