Cantwell Calls for Public Vote On Ownership

Prefer the FCC Not Make a Move That Would Weaken Ownership Diversity, Localism

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has asked FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to vote his media ownership order at its next public meeting -- scheduled for Dec. 12 -- though she suggests that would be a blow to diversity of ownership and viewpoints.

Actually, she would prefer the FCC not adopt the draft proposal, which she says would diminish diversity of "local views, viewpoints and opinions." But in a letter to Genachowski Thursday, Cantwell suggested that was preferable to the commissioners voting it in private. It was circulated to the other commissioners for a vote and not scheduled on either the November or December agenda.

She opined that there were no public meetings or hearings on the proposed rules after the chairman issued its rulemaking proposal in December 2011. That proposal would loosen the newspaper-TV crossownership rules, lift limits on newspaper-radio crossownership and allow radio-TV crossownership, while counting some joint sales agreements toward local ownership caps that are being left in place.

Cantwell was particularly concerned about the FCC's suggestion that lifting the limits on radio-TV and radio-newspaper ownership was ending "outdated prohibitions." Instead, she said, they support diversity, competition and localism.

She wants the public meeting so the commissioners will have to publicly defend their decision. "The American public needs to hear directly from you and the other commissioners on this critical matter."

Cantwell was a principal critic of the FCC's 2007 media ownership order, which similarly tried to loosen crossownership regs, and cautioned Genachowski not to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Martin, who presided over that effort. That caution came in 2010, when the FCC was preparing to defend the Martin rule changes.