Late Friday, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) weighed in on the media-ownership debate, telling Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin in a letter that if he did not delay an FCC vote on the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership rules, they would ask that the Appropriations Committee deny any funding to implement that decision.
It is the latest in a series of gambits to try to block the vote, including a Senate bill that would not allow it to go through.
“This is a showdown with an FCC chairman who is letting the FCC do the bidding of big corporate conglomerates without giving smaller media outlets a chance to fight back,” Kerry said.
“We must ensure that we have an open media market that represents all of the voices in our diverse nation and allows them to be heard,” Obama added.
Both are vocal media-consolidation critics, with Kerry leading the toughest questioning of Martin at a Senate Commerce Committee FCC oversight hearing Thursday.
Martin has vowed to hold the vote and finish the years-long media-ownership-rule review.
The full text of the letter follows.
The Honorable Kevin J. Martin
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Dear Chairman Martin:
Your testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee Dec. 13 restates your intention to move forward aggressively with a proposal that would relax media-ownership rules with respect to the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule. We reiterate our call from July of last year and in various forums over the past two months for you to delay this vote for a period of time sufficient for the commission to examine the status of minority and women media ownership in the United States and to establish a policy to effectively address the need to promote greater diversity in media markets.
With respect to this issue, the intent of the Senate Commerce Committee was made clear with its decision to unanimously report S. 2332, the Media Ownership Act of 2007. Section 2 of this bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to establish and convene an independent panel to make recommendations for specific rules to increase the representation of women and minorities in the ownership of broadcast media. The bill further states that the FCC must act on the panel's recommendations before voting on any changes to its broadcast and newspaper ownership rules.
We recognize the widespread animosity aimed at the direction of the commission regarding Tuesday’s scheduled vote. We understand that for a variety of reasons, you are being asked to postpone the vote to permit more time for the commission to fully understand how a relaxation in the cross-ownership rule will impact other important issues such as localism. It is our hope that the sum of these objections will convince you to delay this vote until a time following the commission’s consideration of other pressing matters. Specifically, we believe that moving forward with this change will have a direct and detrimental impact on the state of media diversity. Should you decide to move forward with this vote against the expressed bipartisan, bicameral intent of Congress, we will approach Appropriations chairman [Robert] Byrd [D-W. Va.] with a request that funds be denied for the implementation of this rule.
Thank you for your consideration. Should you have any questions regarding this request, please do not hesitate to contact any of us at any time.
Sen. John Kerry
Sen. Barack Obama
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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.