No media ownership resolution until 2004

The U.S. Senate refused to act this year on an omnibus spending bill that contains new media ownership rules that allow a permanent TV station national ownership of 39 percent of the nation’s homes. Senators blocked the comprehensive bill after a favorable 242-176 vote in the House. No vote is expected before the Senate returns on January 20, 2004.

Senate Democrats, outraged that the ownership cap was changed by the White House and Republican senators without Democratic consultation, refused to vote on the legislation. To allow a quick vote on the bill “would be a shocking abrogation of our responsibilities to the people of this country,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, (D-S.D.).

In the meantime, the FCC’s Republican majority has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia—which has issued a stay halting the new media ownership rules—to dismiss challenges to the rules by a group of consumer activists. The Republicans called the new rules a “measured response” to substantial changes in the media marketplace.

“The rules both advance the commission’s traditional goals of promoting competition, diversity and localism and they fulfill the commission’s obligation to periodically review its rules to ensure that they continue to remain necessary in the public interest,” the Republican commissioners said in a statement.

Responses from plaintiffs are due by Dec. 22, with oral arguments scheduled for Feb. 11, 2004.

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