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06.30.2003
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
How Congress will undo FCC’s ownership rules

Two weeks ago, influential New York Times columnist William Safire broke the story in advance of how the Senate Commerce Committee would overturn the FCC’s decision to loosen media ownership rules. Now, the conservative columnist, whose predictions were correct, has followed up with how the legislation is expected to gain passage by the full Congress.

“To the FCC’s amazement,” Safire predicts the full Senate will approve a rollback to the 35 percent broadcast ownership cap and continued limitations on newspaper cross-ownership during a bipartisan vote this summer.

“Media moguls profess not to worry about the Senate’s threatened rollback because they think they own Billy Tauzin, chairman of the relevant committee in the House,” Safire wrote in his June 6 column in the Times. “But Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, has introduced a rollback bill similar to (Sen. Ted) Stevens’s in the Senate, and already has a majority of co-sponsors on Tauzin’s committee.

“An old G.O.P. hand tells me Tauzin has ‘no interest’ in stopping media mergers anywhere, but ‘always leaves himself wiggle room if there’s heat from home.’ No heat is coming from the White House, where Karl Rove has not awakened to this ‘sleeper issue,’” Safire wrote.

Rep. Burr should be of considerable interest to the G.O.P., Safire said, because he will be the challenger to Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) next year unless Edwards resigns to run for president. “National exposure as the congressman who stopped the power grab would help Burr pick up a Senate seat for the G.O.P., central to Bush hopes for a successful second term,” wrote Safire.

“That prospect should get White House attention,” Safire continued. “In the House, co-sponsorship by half the members gets Tom DeLay’s attention, and the bill already has 146 of the 218, one-third Republican.”

Safire thanked his own newspaper, the New York Times, for not only running his editorials opposing the new media rules, but giving the story front-page coverage. He noted the newspaper opposes his views and is a supporter of the broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership rules.

But, wrote Safire, “no thanks go to the biggest media, where CBS’s “60 Minutes,” NBC’s “Dateline” and ABC’s “20/20” found the rip-off of the public interest by their parent companies too hot to handle. Most network newscasts dutifully covered the scandalous story as briefly and coolly as possible, failing to disclose how much it meant to their parent companies, which were lobbying furiously for gobble-up rights.”

For more information visit www.nytimes.com.

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