Lawmakers predict revolt over media dictatorships

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If some lawmakers were to be believed, the major media are Frankenstein,
Stalin and the ex-Iraqi dictator rolled into one.

The rhetoric was overheated, even by Capitol Hill standards, during House
floor debate over a broadcast-ownership provision contained in a Federal
Communications Commission spending bill.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) accused the FCC of trying to impose a
centralized "Saddam-style information system in the United States."

Woolsey was speaking in favor of an unsuccessful amendment that would have
gone beyond the spending bill’s provision to reinstate the 35% cap on one
company’s national TV-household reach.

The amendment, defeated 254-174, was sponsored by Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), David Price (D-N.C.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), and it would have banned
local broadcast/TV cross-ownership and reinstated previous limits on TV
duopolies.

Adding more fire, so to speak, was Price, who predicted "people with
pitchforks and torches" in front of the Capitol if the amendment was defeated.

Then there was the reference by one lawmaker to Soviet Russia’s control of
its media.

Ironically, both the author of the 35% rollback provision and supporters of
the FCC’s new 45% cap teamed up to defeat the Hinchey amendment, although for
opposite reasons.

"You have to make a judgment about how much you can bite off and win," said
Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), who led last week’s Appropriations Committee battle to
add the 35% rollback to the funding bill.

Obey predicted that extra ownership tightening, which he supports philosophically,
would eliminate chances that the bill would survive a White House veto threat.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), backing Obey’s position, promised to introduce
legislation later to reinstate cross-ownership and duopoly restrictions.

FCC supporter Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who could throw obstacles into the path of
the Dingell bill if he so chose, said the amendment represented "backward
thinking."

The spending bill was expected to pass late Tuesday night.

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