FCC Chairman Michael Powell spoke on February 27 at in the Richmond, Va. convention center on FCC field hearings on broadcast ownership. Powell said that if the commission does not take this bi-annual review of the rules seriously that the courts might eliminate most, if not all of the ownership rules.
At the FCC's ownership field hearings Powell said that he was enormously pleased that so many people had expressed an interest in the Commission’s review of broadcast ownership regulations. He said that the number of comments the FCC has received is staggering —15,000 from the general public alone.
Powell also said that he was particularly pleased to see that his staff had arranged for the leadoff presentation to address “legal issues” which he said are critical for those who want to understand how the FCC will make ownership policy decisions. Powell pointed out that the broadcast ownership rules are fundamentally different than most rules on the FCC’s books in that every two years, the Commission is required by statute to review the broadcast ownership rules. And every two years the commission is legally required to presume each rule is no longer needed unless they commission finds otherwise. Powell said, “Unless we can re-justify each broadcast ownership rule under current market conditions, the rule goes away.”
With these periodic reviews, Powell said, the courts have become far more skeptical of FCC rationales for imposing limits on broadcast ownership, stating that five times in the past two years the FCC has defended its ownership rules in court. In the court’s opinion, Powell said, the FCC has failed to justify its rules in light of today’s media environment. Powell said the court’s rulings have indicated that with rules that are periodically under review, “Either we produce evidence that a rule is still necessary, or we must eliminate it.”
Powell agrees that some broadcast ownership rules are necessary if robust marketplaces of ideas are to be maintained, and that the commission must propose rules that honestly reflect today’s marketplace. Powell stated that if the FCC fails in its efforts this time around that the courts might very well sweep every one of the ownership rules away, and added “Let’s see if we can put that genie back in the bottle.”
For more information visit www.fcc.gov.