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Hill Dems Slam Ownership Reg Rollback

Democrats on both side of Capitol Hill were recording their unhappiness with the vote by the FCC's Republican majority Thursday (Nov. 16) to roll back some broadcast media ownership regs and adjust others so broadcasters could own more stations and buy newspapers.

“Instead of going to bat for local news, weather, and sports, the Commission has turned its back on the importance of localism,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who is a big media consolidation foe. “By eliminating rules which ensured that Americans have access to a variety of viewpoints and prevented any one company from gaining too much control in one market, the FCC has paved the way for broadcasting behemoths to exercise more control."

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees communications and the FCC, was equally displeased. He had called for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to recuse himself from the vote--didn't. Had he done so, it would have been a 2-2 split since the Democrats on the FCC strongly dissented. 

Pallone wants the FCC Inspector General to investigate whether a series of FCC actions were taken to favor Sinclair and its deal to buy Tribune.

Related: FCC Proposes Pruning Cable Requirements

“Once again the FCC has backed special favors for giant corporations while stripping away important assistance for low-income Americans," said Pallone. "First, the FCC voted to give major handouts to Sinclair, putting corporate bottom lines above the public interest. At the same time, the Commission inexplicably voted to take phones away from low-income Americans who are trying to make ends meet. Unfortunately, today’s action demonstrates the FCC’s relentless desire to please the corporate interests, and is troubling considering that we have a critical net neutrality vote coming up next month.”

“By eliminating media ownership limits, the FCC is delivering a blow to localism and diversity in our broadcast media,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee. “This act will pave the way for massive broadcast conglomerates to increasingly provide local viewers with nationalized cookie-cutter news and corporate propaganda that’s produced elsewhere. This is not the type of local broadcasting Floridians and other Americans and have come to expect and deserve.”

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.