Friday, July 25, 2003

Still Perseverating About the FCC

Catch Bill Moyers’ show NOW, Friday at 9PM, on your local PBS channel for an update on the FCC media consolidation. Transcripts will probably be available on his site: soon. (Addendum: The full transcript for the 7/25/03 program is online.) Here is their very brief summary so far.

Other resources on the Net:

    Best detailed review of what happened July 23rd at Media Reform

To grossly oversimplify: as reported by the major news media (caution: these links will disappear into the ether in about 7 days: New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post), the House actually supported by a margin of 400 to 21 an appropriations bill (HR 2799 ) containing the provision to turn back one part of the FCC rulings on June 2nd. The Los Angeles Times writes:
    “...The House of Representatives, in a sharp rebuke to the Federal Communications Commission, passed a measure Wednesday that would keep television broadcasters from owning stations that reach more than 35% of the nation's viewers...”

This is on the surface literally an amazing victory for the many opponents of media consolidation since it was thought that the waters would be rougher in the House. The story of the ultimately defeated Hinchey-Price amendment, an amendment blocking media cross-ownership was a fascinating read, as written up by Media Reform and John Nichols. I literally read the Media Reform article three times before I felt I had somewhat of a handle on it.

Now all is not totally well. In addition to the threatened presidential veto, there is the hurdle of a joint House-Senate Committee to hash out the actual legislative details. What portions of the June 2nd FCC rulings to be overturned will be determined in this joint Committee. Given what has happened so far, it would be hard to imagine the intrigues that may happen.

Senator Dorgan is approaching this with a different tactic. The Washington Post reports that:
    “…Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) is pushing a rarely used legislative device known as a "resolution of disapproval," which would effectively vacate the entire FCC decision. The resolution is awaiting a vote in the Senate. To go into effect, it would have to be approved by the House and signed by the president…”

But the nature of the support for an overturn of the June 2nd FCC ruling indicates something different is in the air, a different zeit-geist, if you will. Despite heavy lobbying by the corporate interests, grass-roots activism played a significant role in influencing votes of this bill (see Media Reform and John Nichols articles). My sense more and more is that the June 2nd FCC vote on media deregulation was the collective equivalent of hitting a bottom, using AA lingo, describing that transformative point at which you’ve gone so far that you do wake up and finally take action.

The need for action still exists: please email, write, call your House and Senate Representatives either to thank them for their support or to ask for them to change their minds about the FCC decision.

If you’re curious, here is the House roll call for this legislation: HR 2799

House legislation: HR 2462 (Sanders)
Senate legislation: SJ Res 17 (Dorgan’s resolution )
To look up the status of legislation, go here: