FCC Refuses Public Debate on Media Ownership Decision

18 April 2003

It is “time to make judgements,” Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael K Powell told Congress in a stern written response to members’ requests to delay the FCC’s critical vote on June 2 (thereby enabling public airing of its recommendations on media ownership before these are engraved in legislative stone).

Powell'sletter to Congress (dated April 11 but released only Wednesday) declined to delay the FCC's final decision beyond the scheduled date. He gave as his reason the fact that the FCC had been tardy in complying with a congressional mandate to review ownership rules every two years.

According to Powell, the FCC’s inquiry into relaxation of the rules – the subject of aggressive lobbying on Capitol Hill by Big Media – has already received “significant input from the American public”, amounting to over 18,000 comments. “The time to make judgments based on that record is before us,” Powell told Congress.

His decision is a slap in the face for the House Commerce Committee, a majority of whose members had requested a deferment to allow public comment on the decision. Powell’s hegemony also ignores eight similar letters from lawmakers and the wishes of the two democrat commissioners on the five-member body.

His refusal has sparked fears among some political and media observers that the expansionist interests of the media giants have already won the day.

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