FCC Releases Agenda For Media Ownership Hearing

Some have said the FCC's upcoming rulings on media ownership are a foregone conclusion. But Commissioner Michael Copps continues his tour of field hearings on the subject, coming to Duke Law School in Durham, N.C. on Monday, March 31.

The hearing, organized into three panels titled "Localism and Community Standards." "News" and "Diversity," will give the public another chance to comment on ownership rules. U.S. Reps. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and David Price (D-N.C.) and FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein will also participate.

Some members of Congress, notably House Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), have urged the commission to make the rulings quickly. Copps and others are calling for more public involvement. FCC Chairman Michael Powell has said the field hearings are unnecessary.

"There is a growing [public] concern about a rush to judgment here at the commission," Copps told reporters March 27.

Copps already held hearings in Richmond, Va., and Seattle, trying to "tee up a national dialog," he said. With little advance publicity, 500 to 600 people attended the Seattle hearing March 7, a sign, he said, that public concern over media consolidation is growing.

"When they do find out, they become extremely interested in the topic," he said.

Under FCC review are the nationwide cap (now at 35 percent) on the reach of a single owner's TV broadcast stations; local newspaper-broadcast and radio-TV cross-ownership restrictions; local TV duopoly restrictions; the law against a single company owning two networks; and local radio ownership limits.

The March 31 hearing will be Webcast live from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at. www.law.duke.edu/webcast. A decision from the FCC could come in late spring, Copps speculated.