Group of House Democrats Decry Martin's Media-Ownership Plan

41 Reps. Join Long List Targeting FCC Chairman’s Mid-December Date

And the hits just keep on coming: One day after a pair of senators (a Republican and Democrat) pledged to block Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin's timetable for a December vote on new media-ownership rules, and on the same day that media-activist group Free Press blasted the move, 41 House Democrats added their voices to a call to the FCC to slow down.

In a letter to Martin, whose mailbag is getting pretty full on the media-ownership issue, the legislators, led by Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), expressed "grave shock and dismay" over the news, reported last week by B&C, that Martin was looking to bring the 18-month review of media ownership to a close by the end of the year -- a timetable that surprised some and angered many Democrats who do not favor Martin's deregulatory course, which would lift the ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership and perhaps loosen the rules on station ownership if Martin can still muster the votes.

"We believe such actions are reminiscent of the bad behavior that resulted in an intervention by the Third Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in your agency's efforts on media ownership three years ago," the legislators wrote. "Therefore, we hope you will immediately take steps to resolve significant shortcomings in your plan regarding accountability, transparency and scientific integrity."

They complained that the FCC has yet to hold its sixth and final media-ownership hearing -- under Martin's plan, that hearing would have been held Nov. 2 in Seattle, while a second and final localism hearing is slated for Oct. 31 in Washington, D.C.

They also echoed complaints about the 10 FCC-commissioned media-ownership studies and their peer-review process, as well as the inadequate time for public comment if the FCC adopted new rules by December.

Martin controls the calendar, and he already instituted the initial element of the timetable by scheduling the localism hearing, but it is unclear whether he will get that December vote.

Another element of the plan is for Martin to release his proposals for rule changes by Nov. 13 to allow for four weeks of comment before the vote, but the Senate Commerce Committee plans to hold a hearing on the plan, which could throw a wrench into it.

Signing the letter were Democrat Reps. Peter DeFazio (Oregon), Raúl Grijalva (Arizona), George Miller (California), Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), David Price (North Carolina), Tom Allen (Maine), Betty Sutton (Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Mike Honda (California), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Lynn Woolsey (California), Gwen Moore (Wisconsin), Bob Filner (California), Barbara Lee (California), Adam Smith (Washington), Ed Pastor (Arizona), Carolyn Maloney (New York), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Steve Cohen (Tennessee), Louise Slaughter (New York), Jim Moran (Virginia), Nita Lowey (New York), Linda Sanchez (California), Al Green (Texas), William Lacy Clay (Missouri), Susan Davis (California), David Obey (Wisconsin), Diane Watson (California), Jan Schakowsky (Illinois), John Olver (Massachusetts), David Wu (Oregon), Anna Eshoo (California), Jay Inslee (Washington), Brian Higgins (New York), Earl Blumenauer (Oregon), Jim Cooper (Tennessee), Jesse Jackson Jr. (Illinois), José Serrano (New York), Darlene Hooley (Oregon), Sam Farr (California) and Mark Udall (Colorado).