SENATE VOTES TO OVERTURN FCC MEDIA RULES

Resolution Heads to House; Presidential Veto Expected

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The U.S. Senate today voted 55 to 40 to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's new media ownership rules approved in June.

A long shot
Despite the vote, the chance the rules

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will be overturned by Congress remains a long shot. The Senate's vote today, under a rarely used procedure called a "resolution of disapproval," sends the matter to the U.S. Houseof Representatives, where it is not yet clear whether House leaders will vote on the resolution.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. and Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who are the chief sponsors of the resolution, said today they were hopeful the House would feel pressure to act.

"I think what is going to happen is what happened in the Senate. It boiled up," said Sen. Dorgan.

Presidential veto
If the House does act and sends the resolution to the White House, aides to President Bush at the Office of Management and Budget recently said they will recommend the president veto it.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell said if the resolution was passed and signed by the president, it "would only muddy the media regulatory waters. It would bring no clarity to media regulation, only chaos," he said, adding that he hoped the House "will take a more considered view of the public interest."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. said the FCC was "created to ensure the public interest, not to rubber stamp industry interests" and he said the agency "has turned a deaf ear to the public interest it is intended to serve."

'Regulatory void'
Opponents argued that the resolution's approval would create a "regulatory void" and suggested passing new laws instead of turning back the current regulations.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., who has supported altering the FCC rules, said the resolution could have "grave consequences" on the FCC's ability to enforce other rules.

The rules would allow broadcasters to own up to three TV stations, a local daily newspaper, eight radio stations and a local cable company in larger markets. As for the TV ownership cap, one broadcaster could own TV stations reaching 45% of the nation's households, up from the current 35%. Because the FCC discounts the reach of UHF stations in calculating the limit, consumer groups have contended that the 45% figure would allow a single company to reach 90% of U.S. households. Local station owners have been at odds with the national network broadcasters over the cap.

Court date
The rules have also been stayed indefinitely by the 3rd Circuit court of Appeals while it reviews the issues in the case. The court yesterday said it will hear arguments concerning the rules Nov. 5.

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