House Dems question FCC ownership studies


A group of legislators is attacking the ten studies produced by the FCC, charging that they were produced to support a pre-determined pro-consolidation agenda and were also procedurally deficient. A letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was signed by Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Bart Stupak (D-MI), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), David Price (D-NC) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). "While we wholeheartedly support the Federal Communications Commission’s effort to generate scientific research that will help inform future action on media ownership in America, we are very disappointed that this effort has been so woefully lacking in transparency," the House members wrote.

"We hope that you will take immediate steps in order to address these very serious problems." Hinchey said, "[T]his administration is ideologically motivated to encourage the consolidation of the American media into the hands of a few, so the FCC purchased the research that would support its agenda — even if in doing so they flouted their own rules." Stupak went a bit further, promising to use his position as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee "…to press the FCC to ensure that ownership proceedings and resulting regulations are transparent and fair."
A major concern of the group is the "…lack of transparency in the recruitment process used for study authors and peer reviewers," and the very brief time allowed for public comment after they came out (before the peer reviews were released). They also want a report on the investigation of Michael Powell-era reports that never saw the light of day until leaked the Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on the occasion of Martin’s reconfirmation hearing.

RBR/TVBR observation: It is very likely that further deregulation is stalled in the waning months of the Bush administration, regardless of what is in the 10 reports. Even if Martin is able to get something out of the 8th Floor, and that’s completely impossible to even contemplate until next year at the earliest, he’ll face a hostile Democratic Congress that was ready and able to pull the plug on Michael Powell’s 6/2/03 ownership effort even back when it was in the minority. Under the leadership of Byron Dorgan (D-ND), it won the vote in the Senate, but was stymied in the House when Hinchey’s parallel effort was blocked by Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Tom Delay (R-TX). The court-ordered Prometheus do-over made the House failure moot at least temporarily, but if something similar gets out of the FCC again, there will be nobody in the House to block Hinchey the next time.