Senators Raise Caution Flag On Ownership Review


A trio of senators wrote FCC chairman Julius Genachowski this week advising him that he did not have to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors when it comes to vetting the agency's media ownership rules and that they were still concerned about consolidation.
The letter was from veteran Senate consolidation critics Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who were critics of the 2007 decision (and 2008 order) by the FCC under then-chairman Kevin Martin to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership rules, even attempting to have them nullified.
The letter came as the FCC was preparing to defend at least the authority and process by which Martin came to that decision in a brief to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently hearing appeals of that 2007 decision by deregulation defenders and opponents alike. The FCC is concurrently reconsidering its ownership rules as part of a quadrennial review mandated by Congress.
In the letter, they said they wanted to remind him of "the Senate's interest in public-interest limits for media ownership and that the current commission is under no obligation to follow the footsteps of its predecessors."
FCC general counsel Austin Schlick has already tried to make that point in a letter to the Third Circuit last fall asking it to hold off on the case until that quadrennial review was completed. "There is no guarantee that any decision by the Court in these cases regarding the reasonableness of the prior Commission's 2008 Order will bear any relationship to the judgments the current Commission makes [in the review]."
They also pointed out in the letter that the last two attempts to "weaken" the media ownership rules in 2003 under then-chairman Michael Powell and 2007 under Martin, met with "considerable congressional opposition," including resolutions of disapproval passed by the Senate in both instances.