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Monday, December 17, 2007

Cantwell promises swift response in Senate if FCC relaxes media ownership rules

In a strongly worded letter sent today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, Senator Maria Cantwell and a bipartisan group of her colleagues warned that any action to relax media ownership rules and open the floodgates to consolidation would be met with a swift response in Congress.

Cantwell didn't mince words in her announcement:
Congress is certainly not afraid to take action against the FCC...Time and again we’ve told the FCC that if it moves forward without adequate feedback from the public, there will be consequences. There are consequences to ignoring the American public’s right to participate fully in the rule making process. In the Senate, we’re going to make sure that if we have to pass legislation stopping the FCC, we will.
Martin's proposal, introduced less than a hundred hours after the FCC's final hearing in Seattle on the matter, includes a rollback of the rule that prevents corporate cross ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market.

That's exactly what 99.9% of those testifying at Town Hall during the public comment period over a month ago spoke harshly against. (Only one person, local right wing talk show host David Boze, spoke in favor).

This letter, however, gives us great hope that Martin's railroad will be shut down by Congress if he decides to move ahead on December 18th. The full text of it, including the signatories, is as follows:
December 17, 2007

Dear Chairman Martin:

We believe your determined push to relax media ownership rules by forcing a vote on December 18th short circuits the public comment period that would normally accompany a major rule change of this type. It is customary to provide a reasonable period for comment when proposing rule changes in order to allow the American people an opportunity to review, understand and comment.

When you proposed a new rule on the effects of communications towers on migratory birds, you allowed for a 90 day comment period. How could you decide to allow 90 days for a migratory bird rule and then shortchange the public on the media ownership rule? You claim that you have given the public adequate opportunity by holding hearings across the country on media ownership issues and allowing a 120 day comment period. But no one attending those hearings or submitting comments could have been prepared to assess a proposed rule that didn’t exist.

You announced the rule in a press release on November 13, 2007 with a comment period of just 28 days ending on December 11, 2007. You announced you would take final action on the rule just one week later on December 18, 2007.

That simply is not justifiable. We know you are aware that the Senate Commerce Committee has unanimously passed a piece of legislation asking you to defer action on December 18th. We believe you have shortchanged the comment process and because you have not completed a full review of localism prior to forcing a vote on a rule change dealing with media ownership limits.

With this in mind we are writing to notify you that if you proceed to take final action on this rule on December 18th without having given a reasonable opportunity for comment on the actual rules and study the related issues, we will immediately introduce and move legislation that will revoke and nullify the December 18th rule.

We are notifying you and others of this proposed action in order to make certain you understand the consequences of ignoring the need for and the right of the American people to play a constructive role in attempts by a federal agency to change rules that have a substantial impact on the American people.

The actions you plan to take on December 18th will short circuit the American public’s involvement in these decisions. We request and expect that you will postpone the action scheduled for December 18, 2007.


Sens. Maria Cantwell, Ted Stevens, Byron Dorgan, Daniel Inouye, Trent Lott, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Ron Wyden, Olympia Snowe, Kent Conrad, Claire McCaskill, Mark Pryor, Blanche Lincoln, Robert Casey, Dianne Feinstein, Jack Reed, Bernard Sanders, Russ Feingold, Bill Nelson, Joe Biden, Jon Tester, Chris Dodd, Larry Craig, Barbara Boxer, Robert Menendez
We applaud Senator Cantwell and each of her colleagues who signed on to the letter - whether Republican or Democrat - for standing up to Kevin Martin's media consolidation freight train.

It's unlikely he'll pay any attention to this admonishment, but it's good to know the Senate is already poised to reverse the harm.


Blogger Steve Zemke said...

Conspicously absent from the list of signers is that of Washington State's other Senator - Patty Murray. I wonder what's up here - isn't she listening to what the public is saying?

December 18, 2007 10:32 AM  

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