Powell: FCC to Re-examine US Media Law Reform

20 August 2003

The Federal Communications Commission will re-examine the issue of media consolidation after the outcry over its deregulation proposals.

Chairman Michael Powell – still smarting from the unexpectedly vociferous criticism of the FCC’s plans – has revealed the agency will take a fresh look at the effects of allowing greater concentration of media ownership.

Back in June, the Commission’s three-man Republican majority pushed through a range of deregulatory measures, including the raising of the TV ownership cap from 35% of national reach to 45% [WAMN: 03-Jun-03].

The proposals, due to come into force September 4, sparked a wave of protest that culminated in the House of Representatives and the Senate both passing measures to overturn them – though the White House hopes its threats to veto any such bill will force Congress to backtrack.

Politicians aside, opposition to greater media concentration came from such diverse sources as the National Rifle Association and the National Association of Women. Now Powell plans to respond.

“There is a sentiment being expressed by the American public, a concern about the media, a concern about big media,” the FCC boss told a telecoms conference in Colorado. “I have an obligation as an expert adviser to make sure this is channelled into something constructive.”

He added that the FCC wants to “put itself back in the leadership position” in the debate. Further details are due to be released today (Wednesday) at a press conference in Washington.

Powell – who again denied speculation he is to quit – appears determined to avoid a repeat of this summer’s controversy, challenging Congress to come up with legislation to help the FCC reach its decisions.

“If we’re going to do this,” he continued, “let’s pass real laws that give the Commission more specific guidance about what we want – not just an ‘anti’ vote.”

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff