Republicans Seek to Calm Congress Over US Media Law Reform

23 May 2003

Leading Republican lawmakers are seeking to gun down bills blocking US media deregulation proposals from the Federal Communications Commission.

Representative Billy Tauzin (Republican, Louisiana), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has written to congressmen urging them to vote against measures designed to maintain current media regulations.

As reported earlier this month, senators Ernest Hollings (Democrat, North Carolina) and Ted Stevens (Republican, Alaska) introduced legislation to retain a ban on any media firm reaching over 35% of US households [WAMN: 15-May-03]. A similar bill has been introduced into the House of Representatives by Richard Burr (Republican, North Carolina) and John Dingell (Democrat, Michigan).

The measures represent a last-ditch attempt to prevent the FCC raising the ownership bar to 45% under proposals due to be voted on by commissioners on June 2.

Although the legislation is unlikely to succeed, Tauzin is keen to ensure it poses no threat to the FCC vote. “Congress directed the commission to do precisely what it is doing now – examine its ownership rules and justify them on an ongoing basis,” he wrote. “Oppose legislation that ties the FCC's hands and prevents it from ensuring that the laws accurately reflect the realities of the mass media marketplace.”

The FCC’s proposals have drawn criticism from lobby groups across the political spectrum. They are also now opposed by the three Congress bodies representing ethnic minorities.

In a letter to the FCC, the chairmen of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus demanded that “no changes to our broadcast ownership rules should occur without first making a convincing case that such changes will promote minority ownership.”

Despite such opposition, Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (Republican, Arizona) has ruled out taking action to stop the June 2 vote. However, he warned that FCC commissioners would have to justify their decision before his committee.

“We could act legislatively,” he cautioned. “If the majority of Congress acts legislatively, we can reverse the actions of any agency.”

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