Powell to Congress: No Delay in Ownership Review

By: Todd Shields

(Mediaweek.com) Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell in correspondence released Wednesday told Congress he would not delay his planned June 2 vote on major media ownership rules, saying it is “time to make judgments.”

Powell’s statement came in correspondence replying to eight recent letters from federal lawmakers split on whether the agency should proceed quickly, or propose rule changes and submit them to more public comment. The five commissioners are deliberating privately on what changes to present for the June vote.

Powell in his letter dated April 11 said the agency is tardy in complying with a congressional mandate to review ownership rules every two years. He said the FCC has received “significant input from the American public,” compiling a record of more than 18,000 comments. “The time to make judgments based on that record is before us,” Powell wrote.

Congressional correspondents urging action by June included Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), the chair of the House Commerce Committee that oversees the FCC. Those urging more public comment included 12 senators from both parties, who comprise a majority of that chamber’s Commerce Committee, which likewise oversees the FCC.

At issue are rules that limit TV network size, restrict local concentrations of TV and radio ownership, and prevent daily newspapers from owning nearby broadcast stations.

The FCC’s two Democratic commissioners have pushed for a delay in the rulemaking, saying more study should take place before they vote along with their three Republican colleagues.

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