By: David Ho, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Commerce Secretary Donald Evans on Thursday urged the Federal Communications Commission to avoid delaying a vote on an overhaul of rules governing ownership of newspapers and television and radio stations.
Evans said in a letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell that the agency should complete the review on June 2 as planned.
“This proceeding presents an important opportunity for the commission to update its rules to reflect the realities of the modern media marketplace, with its unprecedented proliferation of outlets for news and information,” Evans said.
Lawmakers have bombarded the FCC with letters in recent weeks asking Powell to disclose the FCC’s plans for overhauling media ownership restrictions before approving any changes. Others have urged Powell to stay on schedule.
The FCC is studying whether decades-old ownership restrictions belong in a market altered by satellite broadcasts, cable television, and the Internet.
A 1996 law requires the FCC to review ownership rules in light of industry changes every two years.
Last week, Powell told lawmakers that the FCC must finish the current review on schedule to have time to begin the next one.
“Further and more specific notice is unwarranted in light of the full record before us, and weighed against the pitfalls of further delay,” Powell wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
Evans commended Powell for “recognizing the need to resolve the uncertainty surrounding potential rule changes.”
The ownership rules include a ban on mergers between major television networks and a restriction preventing a company from owning a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same city. The rules also prohibit a company from owning TV stations that reach more than 35% of U.S. households.
Powell repeatedly has said the rules should be changed. Two other Republicans on the five-member commission also are widely expected to seek looser regulations, an outcome sought by many large media companies who say the rules hurt business.
Critics warn that mergers resulting from looser rules could leave a few huge companies in control of what people watch, hear, and read.