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Senators Raise Caution Flag On Ownership Review

A trio of senators wrote FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski this
week advising him that he did not have to follow in the footsteps of his
predecessors when it comes to vetting the FCC's media ownership rules and that
they were still concerned about consolidation.

The letter was from veteran Senate consolidation critics Byron
Dorgan (D-N.D.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who
were critics of the 2007 decision
(and 2008 order) by the FCC under then
Chairman Kevin Martin to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership
rules, even attempting to have them nullified.

The letter came as the FCC was preparing to defend at least the
authority and process by which Martin came to that decision in a brief to the
Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently hearing appeals of that 2007
decision by deregulation defenders and opponents alike. The FCC is concurrently
reconsidering its ownership rules as part of a quadrennial review mandated by

In the letter, they said they wanted to remind him of "the
Senate's interest in public interest limits for media ownership and that the
current commission is under no obligation to follow the footsteps of its

FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick has already tried to make
that point in a letter to the Third Circuit last fall asking it to hold off on
the case until that quadrennial review was completed. "There is no
guarantee that any decision by the Court in these cases regarding the
reasonableness of the prior Commission's 2008 Order will bear any relationship
to the judgments the current Commission makes [in the review]."

They also point out in the letter that the last two attempts to
"weaken" the media ownership rules (in 2003 under Chairman Michael
Powell and 2007 under Martin, were met with "considerable congressional
opposition," including resolutions of disapproval passed by the
Senate in both instances.