FCC’s media ownership rules may be doomed
September 8, 2003
Only hours before the FCC’s new media ownership rules were scheduled to take effect last week, a federal appeals court issued an emergency stay that blocked their enforcement. Then, hours later, the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. Senate voted to prevent the FCC from changing a rule that would have allowed a single company from owning enough stations to reach 45 percent of the national audience.
The Senate action followed a similar vote by the House of Representatives in July. Though President Bush has threatened a veto, the Senate committee’s Republican chairman said he believes the President will back off the threat, thus killing the FCC’s Republican initiative that would allow the concentration of media ownership into fewer companies.
Simultaneously last week, consumer groups—savoring victory from their surprise win in court—petitioned the FCC to abandon the new regulations, contending they resulted from a flawed decision that denied the public a chance to comment.
“We hope to put the final nail in the coffin of these ill-considered rules,” said Mark Cooper, research director for the Consumer Federation of America. “The FCC can’t be trusted to promote competition and diversity among media outlets.”
By week’s end, the FCC announced a freeze on new media ownership applications. This means that radio and television stations cannot be swapped between companies and no mergers can be approved until the court’s stay is lifted.
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