Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, South Carolina Democrat and former governor of the state, died April 6 at the age of 97 and will lie in repose at the South Carolina State House April 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hollings, who retired in 2004 after 38 years in Congress, as both ranking member and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, had successfully pushed for broadcast cable regulation. In fact, When he retired, on the list of accomplishments his office wanted everyone to remember was that he had "Reined in the cable TV monopolies, as the driving force in the early 1990s for the Cable and Consumer Protections Act."
Hollings had argued that "persistent service and rate abuses by TV cable companies around the country " prompted him to "to lead the charge," as his office put it at the time, "in giving the Federal Communications Commission authority to regulate basic cable TV rates and set minimum service standards."
Hollings was also a driving force behind the Children's TV Act (along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that required broadcasters to air minimum amounts of educational and informational children's programming. The FCC is currently rethinking how to administer that mandate, and will likely loosen the rules.
Hollings also led the fight to limit a TV station group's national ownership reach to 35%, another issue much in the news today as the FCC considers whether to lift the 39% cap, a compromise Hollings slammed at the time.
Hollings also tried, unsuccessfully, to pass legislation restricting violence on television, introducing a bill in every session of Congress for over a decade that would have restricted violent programming to late night hours.
Former FCC chairman and Hollings aide Michael Copps, who carried Hollings mission of regulating communications providers in the public interest, tweeted about his former boss:
Fellow south Carolinian and also former FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn tweeted:
“As Governor and a Senator from the state of South Carolina for 38 years, Fritz Hollings exemplified what a public servant should be," said NCTA EVP James Assey, who was telecommunications counsel to Hollings. "Well-known and respected for his keen intellect and rapier wit, Senator Hollings often said that he came to Washington to make headway, not headlines. But in a lifetime of service, his work and accomplishments were often A1 material. As chairman and ranking Member on the Senate Commerce committee, his fingerprints still indelibly mark a wide range of federal laws affecting our economy, including the landmark 1996 Telecommunications Act which fueled competition and the birth of the commercial internet. He will forever be remembered for his tenacious spirit, his eloquence, his humor, and his steadfast belief in the power of government to improve the lives of its citizens. Those of us lucky to have worked at his elbow will remain ever in his debt and forever inspired by his legacy.”
“I had the privilege of serving with Fritz Hollings in the Senate and knew him as a man of colorful wit, unblemished integrity and deep love for country and his constituents of South Carolina," said National Association of Broadcasters presdident and former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith. "His desire to connect every American with vital news and information drove his work on the Senate Commerce Committee, and he leaves behind an enduring impact on local radio and TV. I join with the broadcast community in mourning the loss of this giant of American politics.”
Hollings' funeral will be April 16 in Charleston, S.C., at 11 a.m. at the Summerall Chapel at The Citadel.