House Votes to Block FCC’s Deregulation of Nation’s Media

In surprise disagreement with the White House, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 400-21 to block one aspect of the Federal Communication’s Commission (FCC) recent vote to allow large corporations to have greater control over the media. Last month, the FCC voted to change the media ownership cap to allow a single company to own TV stations that reach 45 percent of households in the US; and rewrite two existing “cross-ownership” rules to lift current restrictions that keep companies from owning a newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market. The House voted to block the increase in the media ownership cap for TV stations – instead voting to maintain it at its current 35 percent limit.

“The House has now repudiated the FCC’s attempted giveaway of the public airways to national media giants based in New York and LA,” said Rep. David Obey (D-WI), who sponsored the House measure, as reported by the New York Times. “I hope the administration is listening and will fix its flawed policy, so citizens can get accurate, free-flowing information – the lifeblood of democracy.”

Since the FCC’s ruling in early June, widespread public outcry against the changes has rapidly grown with both liberal and conservative organizations coming together to lead the opposition – these groups range from the National Rifle Association and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to Common Cause, National Organization for Women, the Leadership Council on Civil Rights and Ms. Magazine.

Now immersed in a rare conflict with the Republican-controlled House, President Bush has threatened to veto the $37.9 billion spending bill that contains the measure to block the FCC’s ruling. However, there appears to be enough support in the House and Senate for an override of any veto, according to the Times.

A similar measure is currently making its way through the Senate. Senate leaders have said that the full Senate could consider the bill soon after they return from summer recess.

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New York Times 7/24/03; Associated Press 7/23/03; Wall Street Journal 7/23/03

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