FCC Media Rules: US Administration Piles On Pressure

28 April 2003

The pressure for a speedy decision by the Federal Communications Commission on the relaxation of current rules governing media ownership was stepped-up on Thursday by the Bush administration .

Commerce secretary Donald Evans urged the FCC to quickly conclude its review of media ownership rules to ensure the regulations reflect “the realities of the modern media marketplace”.

But are such ‘realities’ just a euphemism to enable a handful of media colossi to increase their dominance of America’s press and TV, ask consumer bodies and many marketers and agencies?

Evans’ intervention appears to have been timed to support the rejection by FCC chairman Michael Powell of a written appeal from the congressional Commerce Committee, a majority of whose members requested a stay of the FCC’s final ruling, due June 2, to allow public comment on the decision [WAMN: 18-Apr-03].

“On behalf of the Bush administration, I urge the commission to adhere to the schedule you have outlined,” wrote Evans. But he could have saved the US taxpayer the price a postage stamp, the die having been been cast before the stamp was licked.

Powell had already given the thumbs-down to the committee’s request. As he had to eight similar letters from other lawmakers and the wishes of the two democrat members of the five-strong republican dominated commission.

Big Media argues that the expansion of satellite, cable and internet services alongside the established networks and newspaper giants allows Americans choice of source for their news and information [although there is silence among proponents concerning the overlap in ownership that already exists between old and new media].

Opponents assert that major changes to the current rules will allow domination of news and community discourse by a few corporate entities whose tentacle spread across a multiplicity of outlets.

Data sourced from: MediaWeek.com (USA); additional content by WARC staff