Senate Committee Votes To Overturn FCC Ruling on Media Ownership

With bipartisan support, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted to send a bill to the floor that would overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s recent decision to repeal media ownership rules and grant large corporations greater control of the media. “The people won today – this is a huge blow to media conglomerates,” Gene Kimmelman, director of advocacy and public policy for Consumer’s Union, a group that is part of a broad coalition working against the FCC’s proposed changes, told TomPaine.com.

Sponsored by Sens. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC), the bill approved by the Senate Committee would keep newspapers from owning television and radio stations in the same city, stop broadcast networks from buying more stations at local and national levels and force radio companies to give up some of their stations, according to the Washington Post.

The FCC ruling would allow 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 would 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 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 legislation will likely face an uphill battle in the full Senate and in the House. Similar legislation currently moving through the House may be prevented from going to the floor by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and Appropriations Committee Chair Bill Young (R-FL), who support the FCC’s ruling, according to the Post.

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Associated Press 6/19/03; Washington Post 6/20/03; TomPaine.com 6/20/03

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