FCC Dems call for delay of media ownership vote

By Peter Kaplan, Reuters

The two Democrats on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday called on Congress to block the commission from acting next week on a plan to ease U.S. media ownership rules.

Democratic FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein said the agency's Republican chairman, Kevin Martin, had made a "huge mistake" by moving ahead with a vote on the issue and disregarding calls for the agency to study the issue further.

"The FCC should have heeded the calls of Congress and the American people to conduct a credible process on an issue of this importance to our very democracy," Copps and Adelstein said in their statement.

The comment came a day after Martin scheduled the proposed media ownership changes for a vote at the commission's next meeting on Dec. 18.

Martin has proposed changes to the ownership rules that would relax the FCC's long-standing cross-ownership ban in the 20 biggest U.S. cities.

Consumer groups and the two Democratic commissioners on the FCC have expressed reservations about easing ownership rules, fearing more consolidation in the industry would eliminate independent voices and degrade local news coverage.

The changes are likely to pass with the support of the other two Republican commissioners, Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell, sources at the agency have said.

In their statement Wednesday, Copps and Adelstein said they hoped "that either we can turn this around internally, or that Congress can save the FCC from itself."

The FCC chairman's proposal has triggered criticism from some lawmakers in Congress, including House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, and Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, of Massachusetts, chairman of the subcommittee on the Internet and Telecommunications, as well as members of the Senate Commerce Committee .

The Senate is considering a bill that would impose a six-month delay on the FCC in deciding on the ownership issue.

A Martin representative said on Wednesday that he was willing to work with the other commissioners, and that the deliberations over his media ownership changes were done in "an open and transparent process."

"We have been examining this for 18 months, had hearings across the country and posted every study and peer-revivew of studies on the (FCC) Web site," the official said.

article originally published at http://www.reuters.com/article/governmentFilingsNews/idUSN126885220071212?sp=tru....

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