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Activists support ownership changes

Consumer, civil-rights and labor groups Tuesday endorsed a call by three GOP senators requesting that the Federal Communications Commission seek public comment on specific changes to media rules before putting the new requirements in place.

In letters to the FCC and Congress, the groups praised Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, and Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado for their March 19 request that the FCC give people time to express their views about any modifications before any are enacted.

The activist groups, led by the Consumers Union, said they "wholeheartedly support" the senators' request and called it "a fair and prudent way to proceed on a matter that could have a sweeping impact on what news and information Americans see and hear in the future."

The groups opposed loosening the rules, which would lead media conglomerates to get bigger both nationally and in local markets.

Not everyone in the Senate shares their three colleagues' desire for more public comment.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) March 20 asked the FCC to complete the media-ownership review and issue a final order "without further delay ... I am troubled with the length of time these particular issues have remained pending before the commission," he said, adding that some go back to 1998.

Brownback asked for examples from FCC chairman Michael Powell of how the review process has created regulatory uncertainty.