Democratic Senator Chides FCC Chairman for Possible Media Ownership Changes

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) is criticizing proposals to relax the FCC’s media ownership rules, calling on chairman Julius Genachowski to have a public vote on the changes at the next commission meeting.

In her letter, dated Nov. 29, she calls the FCC’s draft order “disappointing.” She wrote, “FCC rules are supposed to serve the public interest. However, this proposed draft order appears to only serve the interest of large media companies that have made bad business decisions. There is no reason to do this. While it may be good for Wall Street, it is not good for Main Street.”

Cantwell’s letter was released by Free Press, which on Tuesday warned that it would take legal action if the FCC pursues plans to change the rules without additional study and public comment.

The 180-page proposal has not been publicly released, but an FCC spokesman has said that the goal would be to “streamline and modernize” the rules, including “eliminating outdated prohibitions on newspaper-radio and TV-radio cross ownership.”

There have been reports that the FCC would take the media ownership regulations up at its December meeting, but the agenda has not been released and a spokesman for Genachowski has not said if it would appear among the items. The FCC has an open meeting scheduled for Friday, but the item is not on the agenda.

Some of Cantwell’s most critical comments were on procedure. She said that FCC’s “most recent quadrennial review of media ownership rules has not been conducted in an open and transparent way,” contending that a draft order was being circulated was being keyed up “for a vote in private rather than have the item voted on at an FCC open meeting.”

Cantwell sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

A spokesman for Genachowski had no immediate comment.

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