More Dems Diss FCC Ownership Proposal

Eshoo, Doyle Among Those Advising Wait-And-Vet Approach

Add Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and a quartet of other House Energy & Commerce Committee Democrats to those pushing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to hold off on a vote on changes to the commission's media ownership rules until he follows what they say is the Third Circuit's mandate to gauge the impact of the rules on ownership diversity.

They say, for one thing, that the FCC should not use the rise of online news sources as a justification for loosening ownership rules.

But in that argument, they make a good case for why broadcasting remains relevant and vital and cannot be simply supplanted by the vaunted broadband revolution, an argument National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith has been making in essentially the same terms. In fact Eshoo and Smith were together earlier this week as they marked the launch of FCC enforcement of Eshoo's CALM Act, which regularizes the volume between programs and ads/promos

"[L]ocal television and radio stations are the essential -- and sometimes the only -- source of local news and information in many communities. As the commission's own research demonstrates," they write, "local TV stations and local newspapers remain the dominant sources of local news, even online through their websites.... The American public deserves to have choice in the medium through which they access news and information, online via their tablets, smart phones and laptops or via their local television and radio stations."

Chairman Genachowski has indicated the proposed rule change -- loosening the newspaper/TV cross-ownership rules and lifting limits on newspaper/radio and TV/radio cross-ownership -- have been informed by ownership studies and the FCC's 323 biennial ownership report, but that more study -- and the budget to conduct it -- is needed before the FCC can provide proper justification for associated diversity initiatives the court said were insufficiently buttressed.

He has also pushed back his plan to vote on the ownership proposals until at least the first of the year to allow for more comment on the 323 report--which found little improvement in minority ownership, and some declines.

Also signing on to the letter were  Mike Doyle (Pa.), Edolphus Towns (N.Y.), Donna Christensen (V.I.), and Bobby Rush (Ill.).

Rush and Eshoo were among several legislators who criticized the media ownership item at a spectrum hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee Dec. 12. Rush was particularly pointed in his criticism of what he said was platitudes but little action out of the commission on diversity over almost two decades.