Darned If You Do...

FCCChairman Kevin Martin has been criticized, including by reporters with kids, for FCC meetings that suffer hours-long delays, but now he is being hammered for trying to speed up the process, specifically the media ownership rule review.

On Wednesday, a couple of commissioners let the cat out of the bag, though it had been pawing at the opening for a while, that the chairman was trying to close the years-long review of those rules by the end of the year.

Martin has said it was time to come to some conclusion of a proceeding that began in 2003, when a court stayed and eventually remanded rule changes for better justification. Broadcasters are still waiting for the green light on how to proceed with some business plans.

The FCC has held a number of hearings on the rules–five of a planned six–as well as localism hearings, the last slated for the end of the month.

But the news that he was hoping to come up with proposed new rules by December had Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) on the edge of apoplexy.

Dorgan is violently opposed to further media consolidation, and enlisted Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye to commite to a swift hearing.

Dorgan wants the FCC to explain how it will address a variety of issues, including localism, minority ownership and public interest obligations, then put those proposals out for comment, before proposing a broad rule rewrite. Democratic commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps agree that is the way to go.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.