Senators Request GAO Study on Media Consolidation

In a move designed to add teeth to the U.S. Senate’s May 15 vote against the revised media ownership rules ordered by the FCC in December, three lawmakers have requested a study of the issue by the Government Accountability Office.

Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and Herb Kohl, D-Wis., signed the letter to the GAO requesting the study.

“We worry that the percentage of independently produced and owned content on media outlets will continue to fall, thereby limiting the number of distinct media voices,” the senators wrote.

December’s FCC order loosened restrictions on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. The Senate Resolution of Disapproval needs a companion measure in the House before going to the White House, where officials have said President Bush would veto it.

The letter asks Acting GAO Comptroller Gene Dodaro to address five specific areas:

  • Sources of programming on television, radio, and subscription video services and how these sources have changed in the past decade;
  • Factors contributing to the current distribution of programming on television, radio, and subscription video services;
  • The impact that consolidation has had on independently produced programming;
  • To what extent the Internet has provided an outlet for independent programming and to what extent have the traditional media companies come to dominate the most popular Internet sites;
  • Changes to existing laws and regulations that industry experts and participants think are necessary.