Media Consolidation Update: Senate Disapproval Bill Inches Forward
We reported last week that the congressional push to scrap a controversial media consolidation rule was gaining momentum. Today, the Senate Commerce Committee proved us right, passing a "resolution of disapproval" that would effectively kill the Federal Communication Commission’s December decision to allow local newspapers to snatch up a television or radio station in the same market.
Supporters of the new rule (ie, the White House) insist it will rescue sinking newspapers by allowing them to diversify their outlets and consolidate operating costs. Opponents, led by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), sponsor of the disapproval resolution, maintain that it would have the dangerous side-effect of lending single companies a great deal more power to control the news.
This is one of those "strange bedfellows" issues, where partisanship doesn’t seem to apply. Already, Dorgan’s bill has 25 co-sponsors, including Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska), the highest ranking Republican on the Commerce Committee. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), before retiring at the end of last year, was also a chief supporter of Dorgan’s bill.
In 2003, there was a showdown between the White House and Congress over a similar rule. Five years later, a similar scenario seems to be evolving.