Senate Committee Votes to Throw Out FCC Rules

'Resolution of Disapproval' unanimously approved, heads next for Senate floor
Contact Info: 
Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x22

WASHINGTON -- Today, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a "resolution of disapproval" that would veto the Federal Communications Commission's latest attempt to dismantle longstanding media ownership limits.

"Our best chance to stop Big Media has just cleared a big hurdle," said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, which coordinates StopBigMedia.com. "The Senate's defense of quality journalism, local news and diverse and independent voices couldn't happen at a more critical time."

Last December, the FCC voted to remove the longstanding "newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership" ban that prohibits one company from owning a broadcast station and the major daily newspaper in the same market. The ruling still must pass muster in the federal court that reversed the FCC's previous attempt to lift media ownership limits in 2003.

But the Senate is intervening right away. The resolution of disapproval (Senate Joint Resolution 28), introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) in early March, serves as a "legislative veto." If passed by Congress and signed by the president, it would nullify the FCC's new rules.

Today's vote follows news that Murdoch's News Corp. is close to completing a $580 million deal to purchase the Long Island daily Newsday from Tribune Company. News Corp. already controls the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and two TV stations in the New York market -- and the new deal would violate longstanding media ownership limits.

"With Rupert Murdoch poised to expand his media empire, today's vote shows the Senate won't simply roll over and watch media consolidation continue unchecked," said Silver. "This vote is a major turning point in the fight for better media."

The legislation has 25 bipartisan co-sponsors including Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The Senate had 60 legislative days to pass the resolution from the time Congress was notified about the rule in late February. Last month, a House version of the resolution was introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.).

"Permitting further media consolidation goes against the core values the agency was created to protect," said Joseph Torres, government relations manager of Free Press. "The FCC did not heed the overwhelming public opposition to its decision. The Senate appears to be listening."

Read the FCC's cross-ownership order: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-07-216A1.pdf

Learn more about the FCC's new rules: http://www.stopbigmedia.com/files/devil_in_the_details.pdf

CORRECTION: Amended the explanation of the House legislative process.

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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