- John McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, was also startled by the public reaction to the Floodgate scandal: "750,000 people sent messages to the F.C.C.," McCain tells me. "This sparked more interest than any issue I've ever seen that wasn't organized by a huge lobby."
....Now it's up to Congress to overturn the ruling by the roundheeled F.C.C. On Thursday, Senate Commerce will mark up a bill put forward by Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, to roll back the penetration to 35 percent. It will be amended by Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, to roll back the cross-ownership.
Where does Chairman McCain stand? The maverick whose hero is the trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt is uncharacteristically torn. He's against regulation in principle and admires F.C.C. Chairman Michael Powell, so he won't support Stevens's rollback to 35 percent (which McCain thinks will pass in committee, and which he won't fight) or support Dorgan's amendment on cross-ownership (which McCain thinks is doomed - "the fix is in on cross-ownership").
....McCain's hesitancy means that this week's strong hand for diversity and diffusion of power is Stevens. With conservative allies like Trent Lott and Kay Bailey Hutchison joining most Democrats, Stevens has the votes for his bill. Dorgan tells me that if he cannot get a modified version of his cross-ownership rollback amendment passed, there is another way - through the Congressional Review Act - of bringing the issue to the floor.
....The effect of the media's march to amalgamation on Americans' freedom of voice is too worrisome to be left to three unelected commissioners. This far-reaching political decision should be made by Congress and the White House, after extensive hearings and fair coverage by too-shy broadcasters, no-local-news cable networks and conflicted newspapers.
Listeners, viewers and readers are interested. You should see this stack of mail. [NY Times]