Dorgan Recrafts Dereg Blocker


A provision staying the FCC's media ownership dereg has been cleared for introduction as an add-on to an indecency amendment to a Senate DOD reauthorization bill.

Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan (N.D.) has reworked his media ownership amendment to Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback's own indecency amendment and plans to introduce it Tuesday, even, apparently, if it jeopardizes Brownback’s effort.
Dorgan's amendment would require a study of the effects of media consolidation on content and would stay the FCC's June 2003 dereg rules until that study could be completed.
Brownback is trying to avoid such amendments in hopes of pushing through upped FCC indecency fines. The media ownership provision and others have bottled up his similar indecency bill in the Senate after it and a House version had high-profile momentum early on.
Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) has also offered an amendment, which Brownback does not oppose, that would take into account a station's ability to pay when levying a fine. In effect it would be a break for the small-market broadcaster (Burns is a former small-market broadcaster himself).
The Senate is now scheduled to vote on the amendments Tuesday. Handicappers say the Brownback/Burns version by itself has a good chance of passage, while the addition of the Dorgan amendment could be a poison pill.
A top Dorgan staffer takes issue with that, or at least with the characterization that Dorgan would be supplying the poison, saying: "If people on the other side are willing to stand up and say we gave a lot of speeches but we won't do anything about indecency if we have to even study the effects of concentration, that doesn't sound like a smart thing to us. If this bill dies, it's not our fault."
Dorgan argued on the Senate floor for his amendment, saying media voices are being increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. 
He said he realized his amendment had nothing to do with defense, but said that if Senator Brownback was going to introduce his own extraneous amendment, but without the ownership provision, he felt it his duty to make sure the bill included that provision.
Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he understood, and added that he was disappointed that Brownback had introduced his amendment in the first place, pointing out that the Democrats had not done the same thing with issues like minimum wage or health care issues. He said the indecency amendment was almost sure to hold up the bill.
There is no companion indecency provision in the House version of the DOD bill, so even if the Brownback amendment passes, it could still be removed in conference.