Tension mounts over review of key TV ownership rules
There were actually two Powells trying to control the message last week — with varying degrees of success.The elder, of course, was U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who presented the Bush administration’s case against Iraq to the United Nations and to Capitol Hill. Elsewhere in the nation’s capital, his son, Federal Communications Commission chair Michael Powell, also was trying to spin things in his favor and restore order within the ranks. With each passing day, there is increased tension among the commissioners over the reg agency’s review of key TV ownership rules. Powell is widely expected to loosen the rules, allowing big broadcasters to increase their market hold. He insists he hasn’t made up his mind, but there are many who think otherwise. Democratic commish Michael Copps kicked off the latest round of infighting when he announced Feb. 5 that he was scheduling two official FCC hearings on the ownership rules, one to be held in Seattle, the other in Durham, N.C. Copps didn’t ask for Powell’s approval before sending out a news release. Powell responded swiftly, insisting that hearings aren’t needed since anyone can file written comment with the FCC, and that there have been more than 13,000 comments filed by private citizens. “This record clearly demonstrates that in the digital age, you don’t need a 19th-century whistle-stop tour to hear from America,” Powell says. Powell, however, did commend those commissioners who wanted to attend additional hearings, and reminded that he will conduct a hearing in Richmond, Va., on Feb. 27. Copps added more fuel to Powell’s frustration when he suggested that the FCC protect showbiz witnesses who might be afraid of retribution should they speak out against the entertainment conlgoms. Powell’s fight to steer the debate is far from over. Like father, like son.