Dorgan Introduces ‘Resolution of Disapproval’ vs. Cross-Ownership Rules

As advertised, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) introduced a "resolution of disapproval" against the Federal Communications Commission's Dec. 18 vote to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules -- a move that would essentially nullify that vote, according to public-interest group Free Press, which opposed the change and backs the resolution.

He had to wait for the rule change to be printed in the Federal Register, which happened Feb. 21.

Dorgan tried to block the vote legislatively, but failing that, he promised to take the unusual legislative step of invalidating an independent agency’s regulations. He also tried the same maneuver when the FCC passed an even more deregulatory rule change in 2003. It even passed the Senate before going nowhere in the Republican-controlled House. It was also mooted by a Third Circuit Court of Appeals stay of the rules.

That could happen again, since both broadcasters and anti-consolidation media activists filed suit against the rule change, arguing that it was too much (activists), and too little (broadcasters).

Dorgan is scheduled to talk about the move at a news conference Wednesday with members of Free Press and other groups opposed to further media deregulation.

“The FCC says this is a modest compromise, but make no mistake, this is a big deal. When nearly one-half of the people in this country are told that in their cities and towns, the media will get the green light to consolidate, they will not be happy,” Dorgan said in announcing the measure.

“The proposal would also create a greatly relaxed approval process for newspapers to buy TV stations in any U.S. media market and spur a new wave of media consolidation in both large and small media markets,” he added.

The bill has 13 co-sponsors, according to Dorgan’s office, including Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), as well as Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Joe Biden (D-Del.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

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.