Programming

Fireworks Predicted at FCC Hearing

Dorgan's Office Sees Confrontation Between Senator, FCC Chairman Martin 12/13/2007 12:33:00 AM Eastern

The office of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) told reporters to "look for likely fireworks" at Thursday's faceoff between Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin and the senator over media-ownership rules.

The Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing Thursday in part to try to dissuade the chairman from holding a Dec. 18 vote on his proposal to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, which he has indicated would wrap up with that vote and others on diversity proposals and a localism report.

Dorgan is pushing a bill that would block that vote by requiring the FCC to put out the Martin proposal for a 90-day comment period, plus conduct separate diversity and localism inquiries with similar comment periods.

The bill has a narrow window of time, and there's a lot of legislation in the hopper, but a Dorgan staffer said, "Prospects for a final outcome that is in the public’s interest, and allows the public to be heard, are good."

The hearing was to have started at 10 a.m., but had yet to begin by 10:30. A committee spokeswoman said that may have to do with floor issues that had to be dealt with first, though the committee was also having its picture taken, or it could have been to make the FCC commissioners feel at home given how many of their meetings have started late lately.

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