Congress Tells FCC 'Less Haste' On Media Ownership Debate

19 November 2007

WASHINGTON DC: US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission is being urged to slow its seeming rush into media ownership reform, scheduled for a vote next month.

Senior Democrats and Republicans have told FCC chairman Kevin Martin that he should allow more time both for the public and lawmakers to debate his controversial proposals.

Martin wants to end the 32-year ban on ownership of a newspaper and broadcast stations in the top twenty markets, but critics fear the changes will limit choice if larger conglomerates gain control of local media. The five FCC commissioners are due to vote on December 18.

In a letter to Martin, House Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell says: "I have serious concerns that the timeline you set forth is insufficient to allow for meaningful comment and evaluations of the proposed rule."

He added: "Amending media ownership regulations, including a rule that has been on the books for more than three decades, is a grave matter that deserves the Commission's full and fair consideration."

However, Dingell did not specify how much time should be allowed for such consideration.

While Edward Markey, chairman of the telecommunications panel, believes "localism, diversity and competition are critical values in our national media policy".

The apparent haste of the vote is thought to be linked to real estate tycoon Sam Zell's intended buyout of media group Tribune Company - a deal he hopes to ink by the end of the year.

Zell has already asked the FCC to reaffirm waivers that allow Tribune to own daily newspapers and broadcast outlets in some markets.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff