FCC's Media Ownership Rules Overturned by US Senate

24 June 2004

The new rules regarding media ownership introduced last July by a party-riven Federal Communications Commission were on Tuesday overturned by the US Senate.

The FCC's controversial ruling, agressively lobbied for by major media owners such as News Corporation and Viacom, lifted restrictions on ownership. Notably the rule that prevented any single company from owning both a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same city.

While in larger markets such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, the FCC swept away barriers that had limited the number of media outlets permitted to any one company. The revision generously upped the ownership limit to three TV stations, eight radio stations and a cable operation.

Since then, however, the new rules have been on ice pending a decision by the United States Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, currently considering a petition by consumer lobbyists and smaller media groups against the liberalization.

Tuesday's Senate vote approved a motion to reverse the FCC's decision. It is seen by the motion's sponsors as a backstop should the appeal fail.

But co-sponsor Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat, North Dakota) is cautious in the wake of an earlier Senate attempt to defeat the new rules: this crumbled under a fierce, combined attack from the White House, the Republican Speaker and the Republican praetorian guard.

Says Dorgan: "I'm not predicting any greater or lesser success than last time. The president and the speaker of the House are determined to protect these rules. I am simply pounding away at this and trying at every opportunity I can to roll the rules back.''

Continued the senator: "Last June, the FCC performed one of the most complete cave-ins to corporate interests against the public interest in the history of the country. When the number of people and corporations who control what 293 million Americans see and hear in the media shrinks to just a relative handful, democracy suffers.''

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff