Martin Promises Localism Study Before Ownership Moves

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FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has told a group of Senate Commerce Committee members that the FCC will complete its localism proceeding and release a report before completing its court- and congressionally mandated review of media ownership rules.

Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota in early December asked for assurances from the chairman that that would be the case.

The localism proceeding was opened by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell in 2003.

Martin said after the media ownership review was launched on June 21 of last year that he would incorporate the localism proceeding "fully" into the "record" of the ownership proceeding.

But the legislators were worried that meant only the comments submitted so far rather than continuing on with the separate proceeding to conclusion and a report. Martin said the localism proceeding would not be consolidated itno the other proceeding, but that summaries of comments and testimony would and, in any event, the proceeding's results would precede any action on new media ownership rules.

In response to the letter, Martin also said that "all" relevant reports and drafts of media ownership-related studies "identified by the commission staff" had now been posted on the FCC's Web Site. Lawyers for public interest law firm, Institute for Public Representation, might take issue with that characterization. In the FCC's response to a FOIA request for all ownership studies and drafts, the FCC said it was not releasing two studies "which provide an overview of the record developed to date in the localism proceeding," invoking the deliberative process privilege.

Also signing the letter had been Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer (CA), Maria Cantwell (WA), John Kerry (MA), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), , Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine and Trent Lott of Mississippi.