Monday, December 17, 2007

"Obama, Kerry Threaten FCC Funding Over Ownership Vote"

Radio Ink:
December 17, 2007: The heat has been turned up even higher on FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his plan to have the commission vote Tuesday on his proposed changes to the FCC's media-ownership rules as Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) have said they will ask the Senate Appropriations Committee to deny funding to implement the new rules if Martin goes ahead with the vote.
Last week Martin testified before the Senate Commerce Committee -- after a contentious exchange with Kerry -- that he planned to proceed with the vote on his proposal to partly relax the long-standing newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban by allowing cross-ownership in the top 20 markets if certain conditions are met.

Obama and Kerry's letter to Martin, dated December 14, says "the intent of the Senate Commerce Committee was made clear" when it passed the Media Ownership Act.

The Media Ownership Act was introduced by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Trent Lott (R-MS) a few days before Martin's proposal was made public. It would, among other things, require the FCC to establish an independent panel on female and minority ownership and await that panel's recommendations before voting on any changes to the ownership rules. The Senate Commerce Committee passed that bill on December 4.

The letter to Martin continues, "We understand that for a variety of reasons you are being asked to postpone the vote to permit more time for the commission to fully understand how a relaxation in the cross-ownership rules will impact other important issues such as localism." A localism proceeding and study are also required by the Media Ownership Act.

"It is our hope that the sum of these objections will convince you to delay this vote until a time following the commission's consideration of other pressing matters," Obama and Kerry write. "Specifically, we believe that moving forward with this change will have a direct and detrimental impact on the state of media diversity."

The letter concludes by warning Martin, "Should you decide to move forward with this vote against the expressed bipartisan, bicameral intent of Congress, we will approach Appropriations Chairman Byrd with a request that funds be denied for the implementation of this rule."

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