House Dems Criticize FCC Ownership Studies

Five House Democrats have joined consumer groups in registering complaints about the FCC's recently released 10 media ownership studies.

Reps Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Louise Slaughter (NY), Bart Stupak (Mich.) and David Price (NC) wrote FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to complain that the studies were "totally lacking in transparency," and biased toward consolidation..

The FCC has been conducting a series of public media ownership hearings, including one slated for next week in Chicago, where critics can also weigh in on the studies.

The charges and criticisms came thick and fast. This from Stupak, chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee: "The FCC has a bad reputation for strategic inaction and delay tactics on matters relating to media ownership."

Hinchey was equally exercised, saying "It's clear from the manner in which the FCC handled these studies that the conclusions were pre-determined: this administration is ideologically motivated to encourage the consolidation of the American media into the hands of a few, so the FCC purchased the research that would support its agenda -- even if in doing so they flouted their own rules."

They also complained that the FCC inspector general (IG) had yet to complete an investigation into charges the FCC suppressed two media ownership studies under former Chairman Michael Powell (Powell has denied any studies were suppressed).

The legislators asked the FCC to, at a minimum, 1) reveal its recruitment and peer review efforts for the studies; 2) justify the topics chosen; 3) reclassify the studies at a higher priority; 4) seek more peer reviews; 5) publish bios of the reviewers they did use; 6) freeze the public comment period until more peer reviews are received and the IG completes (within 60 days) his investigation into the two earlier studies; and 7) provide an additional 90 days for comment.

The studies were undertaken as part of the FCC's congressionally and court-ordered review of its media ownership rules.

"We'll respond to the members as soon as possible," said spokesman Mary Diamond.

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.