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The Time Has Come

Broadcasters are hoping FCC Chairman Kevin Martin can deliver on his plan to vote on new media ownership rules by Dec. 18, but the impediments remain many, including angry Democrats with pitchforks and torches.

Martin has said it’s about time to get on with the rewrite, which the Philadelphia court will get to either put its stamp on or throw it back once again. That’s because groups like Free Press will take the rules to court in virtually whatever form they emerge unless they preserve the ban on newspaper-broadcast crossownership and cut back on duopolies and I don’t know what all.

It’s hard to argue with the chairman since the rules have been in limbo since 2003, when the term "google" would have drawn a lot of blank stares.

The Republican majority, which rightly or wrongly believes in the marketplace as the great leveler,, is going to vote for some for of deregulatory rule rewrite, and certainly to remove the ban on crossownership, which even the court said the FCC had justified. So, unless the Democrats plan to try and hold up a vote until after the November 2008 election, they should let the commission come up with its plan and then take aim in the courts so that the process can be completed before the next millenium.

The iron, as they say is hot. Soon the commission will have to focus on the upcoming 700 mHz auction; it needs to decide whether or not to allow unlicensed devices to roam free in the DTV band; there is a little thing called the DTV transition; and there are north of a hundred items circulating around the commissiones for some action, from program access rule reviews to banning exclusive contracts between apartment buildings and pay services.

The FCC’s process for reviewing the rules has had its critics, but they are the same people who don’t want the dergulatory rule rewrite at all so their complaints must be seen through that prism.

The FCC has held more field hearings and gotten much more public input this time around, which even Byron Dorgan, head pitchfork carrier, concedes.