Reps oppose move to curb FCC media rules


Key House lawmakers on Monday asked their colleagues to oppose an amendment that would forbid the FCC from reviewing and modifying its media ownership rules.

In response to a possible amendment being offered by House Appropriations Committee ranking member David Obey (D-Wis.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and that committee's ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.) wrote "a broad brush prohibition like the one Mr. Obey proposes is unwise policy regardless of which side of the underlying issues you may be on."

Tauzin and Dingell are urging members to oppose the measure, which may be added to an omnibus spending bill already passed by the Senate, for two reasons. First, Congress has ordered the FCC to review its media ownership rules every two years as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. And second, if Congress ties the FCC's hands and then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit this fall strikes down the national 35% broadcast audience ownership cap, the FCC will not be able to rewrite its rules.

"There would be no limit on the number of stations that a single company could own not because that is necessarily the right policy outcome, but because the expert agency would be blocked from doing its job," the two wrote.

The bill is expected to come to the House floor on Tuesday and possibly move to a conference between the House and Senate later this week.
- Paige Albiniak