House Energy & Commerce Committee Calls Dec. 6 Media-Ownership Hearing

One day after the Senate Commerce Committee announced that it would hold a hearing on media ownership Nov. 6, the House Energy & Commerce Committee followed suit, and with a date that would make it tough for Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin to vote on new rules by year's end.

That date is Dec. 6, and the hearing will be a tag-team event, with the Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee co-hosting the hearing.

Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the latter committee, said he wants to look at the FCC's media-ownership studies, which anti-consolidation activists have argued were skewed to support deregulation.

“I intend to look carefully at how the FCC has approached media-ownership issues," he said, "and ensure that the FCC's media-ownership studies provide a balanced accounting of the facts, not one-sided justification for more media concentration.”

For his part, Telecom & Internet Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said he looked forward to debating any proposals for FCC ownership rules. "Congress has an important role to play in reviewing any proposal that will impact the acceptable level of concentration of media properties in a community," Markey added.

Martin, according to sources, planned to outline his media-ownership proposals publicly Nov. 13, giving several weeks for input before an eventual Dec. 18 vote. But Hill Democrats have been weighing in against the plan.

The FCC is under orders from a federal court and Congress to review and better justify its rules, including deregulatory changes proposed, but blocked by the court, in 2003.

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.