Cantwell threatens congressional action if FCC rules encourage consolidation

[Statement from Senator Maria Cantwell]

Thursday, as Seattle prepares to host the final Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public hearing on media ownership, U.S. Senator Cantwell (D-WA) attended a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the same topic. At the hearing, Cantwell questioned the wisdom of the FCC’s rush to judgment about America’s media ownership and warned the FCC that the Senate will act if the FCC’s final media ownership rules encourage media consolidation.

“While increased media consolidation might be good for Wall Street, it is certainly bad for Main Street,” said Cantwell. “We’ll have to see what the FCC comes up with, but if Congress has to act to stop media consolidation, we will. Our democracy is strengthened when diverse voices have access to the airwaves, print, television and the Internet. The FCC is trying to jam this through, to hurry and make a rulemaking, in the hopes that they can get away with saying that more big companies can own significant portions of media. I think Seattle will tell them that we need to have a variety of voices. We’re going to make sure in the United States Senate that if we have to pass legislation stopping the FCC, that we will do that. No one should be allowed to corner the marketplace for ideas.”

The Senate Commerce Committee’s hearing Thursday was on pending proposals to change the Federal Communications Commission’s media ownership rules, and government efforts to promote localism and diversity the media marketplace.

Thursday, Cantwell also joined Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Trent Lott (R-MS) in introducing the Media Ownership Act of 2007 to restore a deliberative process to the FCC’s rulemakings on localism and media ownership and give the public enough time to comment on the proposed rules.

Specifically the bill would require:
· 90 days for the public to comment on any proposed media ownership rules put forward by the FCC;
· the FCC to complete a separate proceeding to evaluate how localism is affected by media consolidation, completed prior to a vote on proposed media ownership rules; and
· establishment of an independent panel on female and minority ownership and for the FCC to provide the panel with accurate data on female and minority ownership. This panel must issue recommendations and the FCC must act on them prior to voting on any proposed ownership rules.

On November 2, Cantwell and Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) wrote to the FCC asking them to give the public four weeks notice of the date of the hearing for media ownership in Seattle. Just hours after the FCC received their letter, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced the hearing for November 9th, giving the public little time to make plans to participate.

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