Senate spending bill to deny funding for FCC implementation of new ownership rules

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona has released a spending bill that would undo the loosening of restrictions on media ownership put in place by the FCC this summer.

Reversing the commission’s media ownership liberalization rules is a small part of the bill which provides funding for the departments of State, Justice and Commerce, and a number of agencies including the FCC.

The bill specifically prohibits the commission from spending any money to put in place rules allowing a broadcast network or group of stations from owning enough stations to reach 45 percent of the national television audience, maintaining the 35 percent national audience cap.

With congressional adjournment on the horizon, the ultimate resolution of this bill is in question. The bill contains several contentious issues, which ultimately may make it difficult to gain enough support for a vote to be called.

Separately, members of the House have made headway in their effort to derail the FCC’s new relaxed media ownership policy. The group, mostly Democrats, said they will send a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, (R-Ill.) requesting that he allow a vote on a resolution repealing the FCC’s new media ownership rules.

Last month, the Senate passed a resolution to undo the changes by a 55-40 vote. Republican leaders in the House who support the commission’s new rules have voiced their desire to prevent a similar measure from coming to a vote in the House.

The letter to Hastert is intended to circumvent those efforts of the House leadership. If it can gain the signatures of 218 House members, the petition would force the House to vote on the measure.

If the House version were to pass and with its previous passage in the Senate, the so-called “congressional veto” would reverse the FCC’s rules. However, the White House has threatened to veto any such measure.

Currently, the relaxation of ownership rules has been put on hold by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia. The case is scheduled to proceed early this month.

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