FCC Broadcast-Ownership Rules To Become Official
Federal Register Plans Publication on September 4th
The Federal Communications Commission’s June rulings to lift the media-ownership cap from 35% to 45% and the other de-regulatory decisions passed in its 3-2 vote among Commissioners will become official when published in the Federal Register on Sept. 4, 2003. Congress will return from its summer recess on Tuesday, Sept. 2, with the promise of further challenges to the rulings.
The ownership rules go into effect with the publication. Other deadlines are pending as well; petitions for the FCC to reconsider all or part of the rules are due Sept. 4 and appeals for federal judges to strike down the rulings must be submitted by Oct. 4.
Gun Slinging From the House
Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich) and Richard Burr (R-NC) recently produced a letter from a FOX affiliate, calling it a smoking gun in its efforts to keep the media ownership cap at 35%. The two sent a copy of letter from Fox O&O WDAF-TV, the Kansas City a Fox affiliate, General Manager Cheryl McDonald to Tim Maupin, director of the Parents Television Council Chapter in the same city. In the letter she addresses his complaint about the June 10 Keen Eddie episode, writing that, “The network, not WDAF TV4, decides what shows go on the air for the Fox Owned and Operated Television stations.” McDonald tells Maupin in the letter that she had forwarded his complaint to the Fox home office.
Dingell & Burr sent a copy of the letter to FCC Commissioner Michael Powell, telling him that, “The letter makes a mockery of ‘localism’ ” and “confirms that allowing networks to acquire stations in new markets … will further diminish the number of televisions stations that have the ability to broadcast programs consistent with the values and tastes of the communities they serve.”
Opponents File For Their Day in Court
So far six lawsuits have been filed in four circuits regarding the FCC ruling, three of which were filed in Washington, DC. The Network Affiliated Stations Alliance (NASA) filed to vacate the new 45% limit, keeping the media ownership cap at the pre-FCC ruling 35%. Media General & the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) also filed in DC, opposing other parts of the FCC’s June ruling.
Public interest groups filed lawsuits in New York, Philadelphia & California, each group calling for the roll back of various pieces of the FCC’s de-regulatory ruling. The FCC vote lifted the ban on local broadcast/newspaper crossownership and the current limits on TV duopolies.
The deadline for filing such lawsuits is October 4.
A grassroots effort to stop de-regulation began earlier this year, when FCC Commissioner Michael Copps began holding hearings across the country regarding the proposed rules. Powell held only one hearing, inside the DC beltline. “The fact that the FCC’s deregulation has encountered such monumental resistance has surprised many political observers because the vast majority of agency proceedings are inside-the-beltway affairs that are resolved quietly by a handful of industry and agency lawyers,” wrote Doug Halonen in a TV Week article “Getting the Rollback Rolling.”