FCC Commissioners Face Senate Panel
February 1, 2007 at 12:00 PM (PT)
The FCC commissioners appeared before the SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE THURSDAY morning in an oversight hearing to give statements on the Commission's present and future activity and take questions from senators on the panel.
Chairman KEVIN MARTIN's prepared comments focused on addressing the needs of consumers, with a stress on cable competition, universal service and the media-ownership rules hearings. MARTIN noted, "At our public hearings, the Commission has heard a consistent concern that there are too few local and diverse voices in the community. Certainly, we need to protect localism and diversity in the media. We must balance concerns about too much consolidation and too little choice, however, with appropriate consideration of the changes and innovation that are taking place in the media marketplace."
...we need to find a way to bring basic public interest standards back to broadcasting...
Sens. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND) and BARBARA BOXER (D-CA) pressed the commissioners on the need to complete the proceeding on localism before moving forward on ownership rules changes, with BOXER repeating her criticism of MARTIN for the "hidden" ownership studies that were released recently after close to three years of being kept from public view.
The rules review formed the core of Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS' testimony, returning to his oft-spoken theme of the evils of ownership concentration and violent programming on TV. "Too much of TV and radio today is homogenized, often gratuitously violent programming," COPPS said. "Even worse is what we don’t see enough of the community and civic affairs coverage that is democracy’s lifeblood... It is time for the FCC to focus not only on avoiding bad new rules, but to revisit the bad old rules that got us here in the first place. I am very pleased the Chairman has committed to complete our long-dormant localism proceeding before moving forward on media ownership. Going beyond that, we need to find a way to bring basic public interest standards back to broadcasting and the spirit of public interest to other media, too."
COPPS also suggested to "modify the the closed meeting rule so that we can talk to each other at the Commission. I can’t think of any recent proceeding that wouldn’t have benefited from a full and frank exchange of ideas among the principal decision-makers. Every other institution encourages discussion among its members -- whether it’s Congress, the courts, or the College of Cardinals. You know, if it’s good enough for Holy Mother Church, of which I am a member, it ought to be good enough for the FCC." Sen. DANIEL INOUYE (D-HI) subsequently said that he would reintroduce a bill to allow more than two of the commissioners to meet outside of closed meetings in an exception to the sunshine rules.
Commissioner JONATHAN ADELSTEIN told the Committee, "With our ownership rules, we should do no harm; we should take far greater care than we have in the past before proposing any changes in our media-ownership rules. Further, to make the media landscape look and sound like AMERICA, we need to open our airwaves to community-based and minority voices. And we need to establish public interest obligations on broadcasters as they enter the digital age."
Meanwhile, Commissioner DEBI TATE stressed, "We must be mindful of the ongoing, dramatic changes in the ways we -- especially 'Generation-I,' those raised with the Internet -- receive our news, information, and entertainment, anytime, anywhere.... We must make sure that we account for these effects of the digital age, because, from a regulatory standpoint, the media marketplace of tomorrow is being shaped by our actions today."