- October 9 - More than 130 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter seeking passage of a rarely-used Congressional veto of controversial Federal Communications Commission rules that would relax ownership standards for television stations and newspapers.
Reps. Maurice Hinchey, Bernie Sanders, Edward Markey, Jim Leach, and David Price are circulating the letter among members of Congress to encourage Speaker Dennis Hastert to bring the resolution of disapproval to a vote in the House . This bipartisan group says a floor vote will demonstrate that members' understand the public's strong interest in the issue of who owns what media in this nation.
There is perhaps no other issue as central to the health of our democracy than the just governance of the media system, the letter said. It is critical to maintain a diverse, local, and competitive body of media sources
It is clear there are honest disagreements among members of Congress concerning these FCC rules. It is equally clear that the public deserves a debate and a vote on this important matter.
The House effort comes in the wake of a similar Senate vote Sept. 16 to overturn the FCC rules. A bipartisan coalition, headed by Sens. Trent Lott and Byron Dorgan, voted to overturn the rules by 55-40 , citing concerns that the new rules would lead to more corporate mergers that would reduce diversity and localism in Americas media markets.
Since the FCC approved the new rules June 2, a broad coalition of citizen groups have come together opposing the lax standards, ranging from the National Rifle Association to MoveOn.org. In July, the House voted 400 to 21 to block one of the new rules raising the number of television stations that a single company can own from 35 percent of the nations households to 45 percent. The Senate Appropriations Committee in September also voted to block the ownership cap increase. And the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has stopped implementation of the FCC rules until they can be further reviewed for their impact on media diversity.
Among other things, the FCC rules would allow:
- Mergers between TV stations in over 160 media markets representing 90 percent of the American viewing public.
- TV/newspaper mergers in over 190 media markets representing 98 percent of Americans.