Dorgan Introduces Bill to Block Ownership Rules

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, (D-N.D.), has introduced a resolution of disapproval in the Senate in an attempt to stop the FCC from implementing its December order loosening newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, especially in the top 20 markets.

The FCC order, published in February, “has also opened a gaping loophole for mergers in smaller communities across the country,” Dorgan said in a statement.

“The FCC says this is a modest compromise, but make no mistake, this is a big deal,” he said. “When nearly half of the people in this country are told that in their cities and towns the media will get the green light to consolidate, they will not be happy. The proposal would also create a greatly relaxed approval process for newspapers to buy TV stations in any U.S. media market and spur a new wave of media consolidation in both large and small media markets.”

The order is also likely to face a court challenge from broadcasters and newspaper owners who say it doesn’t go far enough.

Before the FCC order, the Senate Commerce Committee had unanimously approved the Media Ownership Act of 2007, which said the FCC should delay this vote until the agency knew more about the effects on localism and diversity of station ownership. That bill was not voted upon by the full Senate or signed into law

In 2003, Dorgan and then-Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., passed a similar resolution to overturn the rule then, but a court remand made the issue moot.

The legislation has 13 co-sponsors including Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, R-Maine, John Kerry, D-Mass, Christopher Dodd, D-Conn, Barack Obama, D-Ill., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Joseph Biden, D-Del., Majority Leader Harry Reed, D-Nev., Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.