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FCC to Hold Localism Hearing Oct. 31

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin has been getting pushback from Capitol Hill on a proposed timetable for completing the media-ownership-rule review, but the FCC Wednesday confirmed that it will hold the last of its localism hearings Oct. 31.

That was one of the planned elements of a timetable that would result in a Dec. 18 vote on revised rules. The commission has to hold that localism hearing, then release a report on the impact of media consolidation on localism in time for public comment, since Martin has pledged that such a report would precede any vote.

The hearing will be at the FCC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., and immediately follow the monthly open meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

It will include "a presentation by the Media Bureau summarizing the record that the commission has received on the topic of localism, a panel presentation and a period for public comment. "

Martin decided to fold a separate localism proceeding into the general rule review, but Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) have said that is not sufficient and that they will try to either block a December vote or force a separate localism proceeding to be completed.

Commission Democrats weren't too thrillled with the timetable, either.

“Tonight’s public notice doesn’t bode well for the future of the commission’s localism and media-ownership proceedings," said commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who voted against the 2003 deregulatory rule rewrite and have pushed for more input from the public and for addressing issues like public-interest obligations and the impact of the rules on minorities and women.

"Over two weeks ago, we agreed to clear our calendars for the possibility of a localism hearing in Washington Oct. 31," they said. "But neither we nor the public received any confirmation that the hearing would occur until tonight -- just five business days before the event. This is unacceptable and unfair to the public. And it makes putting together an expert panel nearly impossible.

The commission's meetings have been known to stretch into the evening of late, but the meeting/localism hearing is scheduled to end by 2 p.m., and there is another deadline looming for all if the parents in the process -- it is Halloween, and there are a lot of FCC staffers with kids.