FCC's Restored Republican Majority Presages Media Mêlée

31 May 2006

The Federal Communications Commission, back under Republican control for the first time in fourteen months, is set to tackle a potentially contentious agenda that will delight big media owners and dismay consumer and public interest campaigners.

The five-strong commission (three Republican members; two Democrats), chaired by presidential appointee Kevin Martin, has been in political deadlock following the departure in March 2005 of a Republican commissioner. However, the FCC's rightist balance was restored last week with the Senate's approval of Republican candidate Robert McDowell.

A number of controversial issues are now likely to resurface, among them media ownership limits and a requirement that cable operators carry multiple channels from local broadcasters after the transition to digital television instead of just one.

A more immediate hot potato is likely to be the deal between Time Warner and Comcast to split Adelphia Communications' assets. Commission Democrats had hoped to impose several conditions, including tougher internet protection than those required in similar mergers last year.

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