Senate Mulls ‘Resolution of Disapproval’ Over FCC Media Rules

16 July 2003

There are signs of a growing bipartisan revolt in both Houses of Congress over the new media ownership rules imposed last month by a 3-2 vote of the Federal Communications Commission [WAMN: 03-Jun-03].

A group comprising both Republican and Democrat senators on Tuesday joined the growing efforts to overturn the new rules by introducing a rarely-used congressional veto.

Many onlookers see the move as the second wave in what could become a triple-strike blitzkrieg on the newly relaxed rules. These not only increase the US-wide TV ownership limit from 35% to 45% of national reach, but also remove the previous ban in most US markets on cross-ownership of newspapers and television stations.

But before the proposed Senate veto can bite, both houses of Congress must back the “resolution of disapproval” introduced by North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan.

Says Dorgan: “We are moving to roll back one of the most complete cave-ins to corporate interests I’ve ever seen by what is supposed to be a federal regulatory agency. The FCC’s decision on June 2 advanced big corporate interests, and did so at the expense of the public interest.”

Dorgan’s stratagem is bolstered by a second Senate initiative to revoke the rules. This currently has forty co-sponsors but will need to overcome the entrenched opposition of Billy Tauzin, the powerful Republican chairman of the energy and commerce committee.

The third prong of the opposition comes from fifty-five national and state advocacy groups, which on Tuesday wrote to members of the House of Representatives, urging lawmakers to pass legislation to overturn the new rules.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff