Senate Bill Would Veto Big Media Giveaway

Dandelion Salad

From Free Press
March 5, 2008

Today, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) introduced a “Resolution of Disapproval” that would overturn media ownership rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission last December. Sen. Dorgan will join public interest groups on a national conference call today to discuss the new legislation.

In a 3-to-2 vote on Dec. 18, the FCC eliminated the longstanding ban on “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership,” which prohibits one company from owning a broadcast station and the major daily newspaper in the same market.

“The American public has resoundingly rejected more media consolidation,” said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, which coordinates the StopBigMedia.com Coalition. “The FCC wouldn’t listen, but Congress can still stop this massive giveaway. Whether you’re on the left or the right, Republican or Democrat, you know the last thing we need is for our local news to be swallowed up by the same few companies who already own too much.”

Sen. Dorgan and a bipartisan group of 25 senators sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin prior to the Dec. 18 vote, vowing to “immediately move legislation that will revoke and nullify the proposed rule.” In 2003 �” the last time the FCC tried to change media ownership rules �” the Senate passed a similar resolution to reject the new rules.

Though the FCC’s latest attempt to remove media ownership limits was approved in December, the final language of the new rules just reached the Senate this week. Now that the resolution has been introduced, the Senate has 60 days on the legislative calendar to approve it. In the week after the FCC’s vote, more than 200,000 concerned citizens signed on to an open letter calling on Congress to overturn the rules.

“People across the country still depend on their local TV and newspaper to find out what’s happening in their communities,” said Alexandra Russell, program director of Free Press. “They won’t sit idly by while Big Media companies like Tribune, Media General and Gannett greedily gobble up the few remaining independent voices and keep new, diverse owners from getting on the air.”

The new rules also must past muster with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which threw out the previous rule changes and sent them back to the FCC in 2005. Free Press has joined Media Access Project, Prometheus Radio Project, Georgetown Institute of Public Representation, United Church of Christ and Media Alliance in a lawsuit appealing the new rules.

“We applaud Senator Dorgan for taking a stand against Big Media on behalf of the vast majority of Americans who oppose what the FCC has done,” Silver said. “We look forward to working with Congress to reverse this terrible decision and start rolling back media consolidation.”

Read the FCC’s cross-ownership order: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-07-216A1.pdf

Learn more about the FCC’s new rules: http://www.stopbigmedia.com/files/devil_in_the_details.pdf

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