Senate Blocks FCC’s Cross-Ownership Change

In a bipartisan voice vote, the Senate on Thursday evening (May 15) sent a loud and clear message to the Republican-controlled FCC that it is not to change media-ownership regulations without first winning the consent of Congress–and it doesn’t have it. Without any debate, the Senate invalidated the FCC’s Dec. 18 ruling to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules that had stood in place since 1974. The FCC’s new rules would allow a media company to own a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same top 20 market.
 
The Senate measure, introduced and strongly promoted by South Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan, would nullify the FCC’s controversial rule change if it now passes the House. The White House made it clear on Thursday that it will veto the bill, seen as a helping hand to the struggling newspaper industry, if the bill clears both houses.
 
FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who has been actively battling against any more media consolidation and has been quite critical of the FCC’s efforts to push the more liberal cross-ownership regulations through, said, “The Senate spoke for a huge majority of Americans tonight by voting to overturn the flawed FCC decision gutting our long-standing ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership.  With courageous leaders like senator Byron Dorgan, the Senate has struck a blow for localism and diversity in a media environment crying out for more of both.”

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, which coordinates the StopBigMedia.com Coalition, said in an evening statement, “Today’s historic Senate vote is a resounding victory for the vast majority of Americans who oppose media consolidation. We applaud the bipartisan leadership of senators Dorgan and [Olympia] Snowe for acting in the public interest. But to stop Big Media from polluting our local airwaves with more junk journalism and propaganda, we need the House to move this legislation forward quickly.
 
“At this watershed moment, public outrage against Big Media has reached a breaking point. The Bush administration’s threats to undercut this bipartisan effort in Congress show how out of touch this president is with the will of the American people. But we