- The Senate Commerce Committee voted Thursday to overturn parts of a Federal Communications Commission decision freeing media companies from decades-old ownership limits and allowing them to buy more outlets and merge in new ways.
The proposal … would roll back changes that allowed individual companies to own television stations reaching nearly half the nation’s viewers and combinations of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same city.
“I would like the FCC to start all over,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who opposes the changed rules. She said they are “potentially dangerous to media diversity in this country.”
….The bill, sponsored by Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., would roll back the national ownership limit so a company can own TV stations reaching only 35 percent of U.S. households instead of 45 percent. The bill passed by a voice vote.
The proposed legislation also would reinstate a ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. However, it would allow state regulators to recommend to the FCC exemptions for small communities where a merger may be needed to support media outlets in financial trouble.
The bill also would clarify the FCC’s authority to strengthen as well as relax media ownership restrictions, a question raised by courts that have rejected past rule changes.
Another component of the bill would require the FCC to hold at least five public hearings on future ownership rule changes before voting. Lawmakers criticized the agency for not seeking more public comment before its June 2 decision. [AP]
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning, the bill has to make it through the full Senate, and will face opposition in the House, where Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and butthole, supports the changes.