Senators Resist Quick Media Vote


FCC Chairman Kevin Martin got major pushback last week on a plan to vote on media ownership rules by the end of the year.

At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, one of media consolidation's strongest critics, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), made good on a promise to try to put the brakes on with legislation, introducing a bill that would prevent the FCC from voting on any new media-ownership rules until sometime in 2008, and open a separate proceeding on broadcast localism.

Dorgan was joined by his partner in the pushback, Trent Lott (R-Miss.), as well as presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-Ill.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and others.

The bill would require the FCC to have a 90-day comment period on any proposed media-ownership rule changes and to conduct a separate proceeding on localism and diversity with another 90-day comment period.

Martin has said that it is time to complete the process, which will have included numerous public hearings—the last scheduled for Friday (Nov. 9) in Seattle. He had hoped to release proposed rule changes Nov. 13, according to sources, with four weeks for public comment and a vote Dec. 18.

That didn't set well with the Democats. “I don't think Americans are going to accept the excuse of unintended consequences from the ownership changes,” Kerry said. “I think the FCC needs to know that that approach will not stand and Congress is not going to allow it.”