Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are criticizing the Federal Communication Commission’s decision early this week to repeal media ownership rules and grant large corporations greater control of the media. Several have announced possible legislative attempts to overturn the decision. “Now that the FCC has acted, Congress must step up and exercise its legislative and oversight responsibility to review these new media ownership rules and alter them in a manner that serves the public interest,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told The Hill.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, indicated that the committee would consider legislation that would give the FCC “the authority to impose tighter regulations if the agency found such regulations were in the public interest,” according to the New York Times. Others discussed the possibility of invoking a rarely used parliamentary procedure that would permit them to overturn the FCC’s decision by simple majority in both chambers of Congress – without the approval of President Bush, who has expressed support for the decision, the Times reported.
The FCC’s decision was strongly opposed by the two Democratic commissioners – Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein — and met with widespread public opposition. FCC Chair Michael Powell championed the deregulation, which was approved in a 3-2 party line vote. The specifics of the FCC ruling include changes in the media ownership cap to allow a single company to own TV stations that reach 45 percent of households in the US; and the rewriting of two existing “cross-ownership” rules that would lift current restrictions that keep companies from owning a newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market or radio and TV stations in the same market.
Less than 24 hours after the FCC made its ruling, MediaNewsGroup Inc., one of the largest media conglomerates in the country, announced that it was taking advantage of the relaxation of the cross-ownership rules with plans to purchase a TV station in Fairbanks, Alaska where the company already owns a newspaper, according to Editor and Publisher.