Two Important Developments in Debate Over the FCC’s Media Ownership Review

FOR
IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 10,
2003

CONTACT:
David Butler
202-462-6262
Consumers Union Washington
DC Office

TWO IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS
IN DEBATE
OVER THE FCC’S MEDIA OWNERSHIP REVIEW:

BIPARTISAN GROUP
OF KEY SENATORS ASK FCC
FOR FULL DISCLOSURE BEFORE REVISING MEDIA RULES

SMALL BUSINESS
ADMINISTRATION’S OFFICE OF ADVOCACY FAULTS FCC
FOR NOT PROPERLY CONSIDERING IMPACT ON SMALL BUSINESSES


WASHINGTON, DC – Members of the Senate Commerce Committee today asked
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
to allow Congress and the general
public to review all changes in media ownership rules before they are enacted.

In a separate development, the U.S.
Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy told
the FCC
that the Commission had not sufficiently complied with federal regulations
in its review of media rules and faulted the Commission for not properly considering
how rule changes would affect small businesses.

The FCC is currently reviewing certain
rules for owning various media outlets, such as newspapers, TV stations, and
radio stations. Some members of the FCC appear to favor easing or eliminating
the rules, which could lead to one company being allowed to own the daily paper,
several TV and radio stations, and the cable TV system in the same town.

In an April 10 letter to FCC Chairman
Michael Powell, a bipartisan group of twelve Senate Commerce Committee members
and three other senators said they believed that it was "virtually impossible
to serve the public interest in this extremely important and highly complex
proceeding without letting the public know about and comment on the changes
you intend to make to these critical rules."

Republicans on the Commerce Committee
who signed the letter were Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Me., Trent Lott, R-Miss.,
and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Tex.

Democrats on the committee who signed
the letter were ranking member Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., Sens. Byron Dorgan,
D-N.D., Daniel Inoyue, D-Hi., Ron Wyden, D-Wash., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Bill
Nelson, D-Fla., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

Other senators who signed the letter
were Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., Susan Collins, R-Me., and Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Chairman Powell recently announced
that the FCC would issue revised rules by June 2. In their letter the senators
expressed "disappointment" that Powell planned to release the revamped
rules in final form "without any opportunity for Congress or the public
to review them beforehand.

Meanwhile, the Small Business Administration’s
Office of Advocacy wrote the FCC on April 9 that the Commission’s plan to issue
final rules in its media ownership proceeding violated the Regulatory Flexibility
Act, a law which requires federal agencies to review their rules for their impact
on small businesses and consider less burdensome alternatives.

The SBA Office of Advocacy said that
the Commission must analyze the impact of rule changes on small businesses and
then allow small businesses to comment on the analysis before changes are made
final.

Consumers Union, which is lobbying
the FCC not to weaken its media rules, said these latest developments were very
encouraging.

"These developments reinforce
the point that the FCC must allow a public discussion and vigorous analysis
of specific rule changes before they are made. We all need to understand the
impact that these changes could have on competition, diversity, and localism
in the media," said Gene Kimmelman, senior director of public policy and
advice for Consumers Union.

***

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