FCC Media Ownership Rules Are DOA
As expected in a 3-2 vote, FCC Czar Michael Powell was able to push a new age of media consolidation, just seven years after the last bout of 'deregulation' under the 1996 Telecom Act. I'll of course be discussing this watershed decision and its repercussions over the coming days, but first, the caveat: today's rules are effectively DOA and it's all thanks to Czar Powell.
Mr. Powell has gone out of his way to antagonize fellow commissioners, members of Congress, a broad array of public & private interest groups as well as the voting public that have all balked at the further corporatization of an industry controlled by just a handful of interest, whether it's in radio, TV/cable/satellite or even the Internet. And while some of the resulting anger is in reaction to the actual rules passed today, much of it can be directly attributed to Mr. Powell's penchant for secrecy & control during the review process. The FCC Chairman's style rather than the substance of the rules will be their ultimate downfall.
This will be made amply clear this Wednesday when the commissioners, and particularly the Chairman, face a grilling from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, And Transportation. The ranking committee Democrat, Senator Hollings, has already announced in a press conference today his intention to block any appropriations towards the FCC's implementation of the rules while a raft of legislation overriding various provisions of the rules will make their way through the Congress.
Ironically, while the FCC's major rational for the ownership rule changes has been persistent court challenges, opponents are likely to challenge in those same courts a process that blocked any real and meaningful public debate, contrary to the FCC's own rules.
So the question remains: what will be the ownership rules governing media sectors once the dust settles?