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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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April 24, 2008 11:52 AM

On to the full Senate

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Senate Commerce Committee approved the "resolution of disapproval" today. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. introduced the resolution in a bid to stop the Federal Communications Commission's new cross-ownership rule from taking effect. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island and Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, have introduced a House companion.

The full Senate should pass the resolution and do so overwhelmingly. There is still a question if that will be the case. Once the resolution is through the Senate and House it goes to President Bush who has said he would veto anything that would trip up the new rule. That is why it is so important for a large victory in the House and Senate to override any Bush veto.

Here is the press releases from Dorgan:

(WASHINGTON, DC) - The Senate Commerce Committee today approved Senator Byron Dorgan's (D-ND) "Resolution of Disapproval" to stop the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from implementing rules that would result in more media concentration and fewer choices for consumers.

Dorgan, who has said that the FCC rules "would open a gaping loophole for more mergers of newspapers and television stations across the country," cheered the Commerce Committee's action, but said there is more work to be done.

"Today's action by the Commerce Committee was a step in the right direction," said Dorgan. "Now I look forward to working closely with the Senators Reid and McConnell to get this placed onto the Senate schedule so we can pass this legislation and take a stand for more local ownership of newspapers and broadcast companies."

Following the FCC action on December 18, 2007 to allow newspapers to buy television stations in the top 20 markets, Dorgan introduced a Resolution of Disapproval to prevent this consolidation. The legislation has 25 cosponsors.

"If we allow the FCC to relax its media cross-ownership rules, we will be doing the people of America a great disservice. Diverse, independent and local media sources are essential to ensuring that the public has access to a variety of information."

This is not the first time Senator Dorgan has fought efforts to give more properties to the big media owners. When the FCC voted to allow more consolidation in 2003, Senator Dorgan and Senator Trent Lott passed a similar Resolution of Disapproval in the Senate to overturn the rule.

The press release from Free Press:

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 "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 - which is not limited by the legislative shot clock - 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:

Learn more about the FCC's new rules:

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