A Minor Rollback – Just for Show?

Sen. McCain, the chair of the Senate’s Commerce Committee, said he’ll let the committee go forward in considering a piece of legislation that would rollback the FCC’s June 2 decisions on media ownership. Of course, he says he opposes it and wonders if it’ll hold up in the courts.

Ya know, he might be right to wonder, since part of the reason the FCC made the decision to loosen the TV duopoly and cross-ownership rules was because the DC Circuit Court of Appeals sent their current regs back to them, saying that the metrics weren’t sufficiently justified. Of course, the Commission didn’t have to gut the rules in response, as Commissioner Adelstein pointed out:

“The courts required us to justify our rules, not to gut them or replace them with pale substitutes.”

Nevertheless, if the broadcast industry decides to challenge this legislation in the courts, why wouldn’t the DC Circuit Court knock it back with the same response?

I’m not saying that agree with McCain’s opposition to the measure, but his caution appears to be founded. It seems to me that if members of the Senate are really serious about undoing some of the damage, then they need to think a little more carefully about how they’re going to do it.

But I start to think that introducing rollback legislation is just more of the hot air show we’ve seen from Congress in the last few weeks. They make a lot of noise about opposing the FCC’s gift of media concentration, without taking responsibility for setting it in motion in the first place with the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

One outcome I see from this rollback, is that if it’s passed it’ll get challenged in court by the likes of Tribune and Sinclair, which have been most vociferously agitating for cross-ownership and duopolies. The DC Circuit Court will knock it down with the same logic as before, and then the House and Senate will just shrug their shoulders with puppy dog eyes and say “Aw shucks. Gee, we tried, but the court won’t let us. ”

Nevermind that the Congress has to approve every one of those DC Circuit Judge nominations, and that they won’t go back and revisit the mothership legislation that put us on this road in the first place.

Yeah, sure, it’s all the FCC’s fault. Whatever. Michael Powell makes a great whipping boy, but we’re fooling ourselves if we think a Powell-less FCC would make the super-concentrated media borg go away.






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