Reps. Upton, Walden Slam FCC Media Ownership Vote

Leading House Republican lawmakers were not happy Friday (Aug. 12) with the results of the official close of the FCC's vote on its quadrennial review of media ownership rules.

The FCC's Democratic majority had already voted to retain rules last month, but it does not become official until everyone votes or time runs out and the majority vote becomes official. There had also been at least the possibility that it would be tweaked and re-voted.

As expected, the Republicans voted against, but were still working on their statements at press time, according to an FCC spokesperson.

Broadcasters say the restrictions on local ownership and cross-ownership are outmoded and handicap them in a world of digital competitors.

“A quick glance at today’s media marketplace contradicts the FCC’s finding that only ‘targeted modifications’[like the failing station wavier for newspaper-broadcast crossownerships the FCC approved] are necessary to media ownership rules. The FCC’s order is a weak attempt to fulfill its mandate, and likely sets the stage for additional involvement by the courts to prod the FCC to correctly do its job,” said House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) in a statement.

That was a reference to the likelihood that broadcasters will challenge the decision in court. The FCC just got a smackdown from the Sixth Circuit federal appeals court for preempting state laws limiting municipal broadband buildouts, though it got a big win on net neutrality in the D.C. circuit.

“The current media ownership regulations only serve to prevent traditional sources of journalism from innovating and evolving," said the legislators, "while permitting national new media companies to siphon off more and more local advertising revenue. With jobs and innovation hanging in the balance, we cannot afford to delay this regulatory relief any longer.”

The FCC is expected to release the final text of the item Monday (Aug. 15).

John Eggerton

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.