Congress Implements Tools To Block FCC’s June Ruling
In an effort to overturn a June 2nd ruling by the Federal Communications Commission, both houses of Congress are bringing in the big guns and getting creative with ways to stave off the lifting of media ownership caps and loosening of other regulations. Both FCC Commissioners Michael Copps & Jonathan Adelstein have requested Chairman Michael Powell suspend the rules’ implementation to allow for public comment and review.
In a 40-25 vote, the House Appropriations Committee voted on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 to add an amendment to the current $37.9 billion funding bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments, including the FCC. The amendment will, in effect, bar the FCC from lifting the 35% ownership cap by blocking FCC spending to approve deals to permit networks to own stations reaching more that 35% of the national audience over the next year.
Rep. David Obey (D-WI) sponsored the bipartisan amendment. Representatives from both parties have argued that the FCC’s loosening of media ownership rules will result in the death of localism.
The bill will go to the house floor for a vote, probably this week. However, the White House is expected to veto the amendment if passed. In response to this potential veto, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA.) reflected the views of many of the Congressmen opposing the FCC’s ruling, “I did not get elected to be a potted plant, and I don’t care what the White House thinks.”
On Tuesday, July 15, the Senate launched its own efforts to bar the FCC’s ruling from being implemented. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Trent Lott (R-MS) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) utilized a little-known tool, a “legislative veto” which would allow Congress to nullify the FCC’s June 2nd vote to loosen media ownership rules. Thirty-two other Senators have signed the petition. This resolution of disapproval is on the Senate calendar for expedited consideration but no date has been set for a debate.