FCC Will Vote on US Media Ownership Rules in June

31 March 2003

The Federal Communications Commission has scheduled June 2 as the day on which it will decide on controversial plans to relax America’s current media ownership rules.

Chairman Michael Powell last Thursday tentatively named that date for an open meeting to decide the rules limiting the size of TV networks, the degree of TV and radio concentration in local markets, and ownership by daily newspapers of broadcast stations in the same locality.

The FCC was pushed into its review by a series of adverse court decisions, mostly based on rulings that the body had given insufficient consideration to – and had not consulted widely enough on – the current set of rules.

The FCC will need the wisdom of Solomon to satisfy all parties on this one. Big Media in its frantic urge to go forth and multiply is lobbying for relaxation of the constraints; while an unlikely coalition of consumer groups and the American Association of Advertising Agencies supports the status quo.

Some believe the dice are loaded in favor of Big Media, with Republican-appointed Powell ignoring calls for wider consultation on the issue.

He is on record as saying he is “not inclined” to do so, although a triumvirate of Republican senators (Wayne Allard, Colorado; Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine) recently called on him to ensure that proposed changes to the media ownership rules be open to public review prior to enactment [WAMN: 21-Mar-03].

Preaching to the converted, Powell last week told a Washington DC luncheon sponsored by The Media Institute (whose board of trustees reads like a roll call of media mammoths) that he doubts the wisdom of continuing to bar newspapers from owning TV or radio stations.

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