Republican Trio Demand Public Review of FCC Media Changes

21 March 2003

In an unexpected move, the Federal Communications Commission is being lobbied by three Republican senators anxious to ensure that proposed changes to the commission’s media ownership rules be open to public review before enactment.

The intervention of Senators Wayne Allard (Colorado), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Susan Collins (Maine) came via a letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell, Republican son of the more famous Republican father.

It read: “We applaud the agency for undertaking a thorough analysis of its current rules but believe that it would be inappropriate to make significant changes that could have a sweeping impact on how our society engages in public debate without first having a complete public airing of these changes.”

The letter signifies a new bipartisan opposition to relaxation of the FCC rules that currently restrict national and local ownership of TV and radio stations, as well as same-market multimedia combinations such as broadcast stations and newspapers.

Although the FCC has sought public comment on the issue, it rarely puts a final proposal out for discussion before its adoption. In this instance, however, critics are demanding such action due to the controversial nature of some of the propels aired. “[This] is setting off alarm bells for policy makers who want more competition in the media,” says Consumers Union lobbyist Gene Kimmelman.

Speaking for Senator Allard, chief of staff Sean Conway says of media ownership deregulation: “We’ve seen firsthand in Colorado how the lack of competition, how the consolidation of media outlets has led to higher ad rates, which has an effect on consumers and businesses.” Conway cited a joint operating agreement between two Denver newspapers, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, which resulted in higher ad rates.

No FCC spokesperson was available for comment on the matter.

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