Powell Adamant: Media Vote Set in Stone For June 2

16 May 2003

Michael K Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is no Stonewall Jackson – but he knows how to stay put when faced by a political fusillade.

Despite appeals from the two democrat members of the five-strong commission, Jackson on Thursday refused to delay the body’s June 2 vote on the relaxation of rules governing US media ownership [WAMN: 15-May-03].

The democrat duo, Michael J Copps and Jonathan S Adelstein, had requested a voting stay to allow more time for consideration of the commission’s recommendation – a delaying tactic that would allow the US Senate to consider an eleventh-hour bipartisan bill to retain current ownership restrictions.

But Powell was having none of it. “I have given serious consideration to the concerns raised in your letter and have solicited the views of the other Commissioners,” he wrote Copps and Adelstein. “For reasons explained below, I must respectfully decline to postpone the planned June 2nd consideration of the Broadcast Ownership Biennial Review.”

“There is precedent for granting such a request,” Powell continued, “but it is not customary to do so over the strong objections of a majority of Commissioners who are prepared to proceed, or where Congress has statutorily set the pace of our deliberations, as is the case here.”

Powell then donned a snow-white robe, cast his eyes to heaven and, citing the First Amendment, intoned: “Media ownership rules are intended to protect and advance the cherished values of diversity, localism and competition.

“These values and the public interest, however, are ill-served by letting stand a body of rules that are unenforceable. When the judiciary reverses our rules, especially ones intended to promote core First Amendment values, it is incumbent on us to repair the shortcomings as quickly as possible.”

In more down to earth mode, Commissioner Copps observed that Powell was rushing to vote on proposals that could change the media landscape in ways not fully understood.

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