No matter what the FCC does the rest of this month, its members cannot escape the growing controversy over the proposed rule changes that affects media ownership.
During last week’s meeting on spectrum use, the FCC was under extraordinarily tight security. Protesters opposing the easing of ownership limits disrupted twice the open meeting. One displayed a sign that proclaimed: “Mr. Powell, you’re fired.” Another protester said: “The further deregulation of the media is a blatant betrayal of the public interest.”
Powell, who has appeared calm under growing public and congressional pressure over the controversial initiative, told the protesters the issue would be taken up at a future date. However, that date, June 2, is also the subject of another controversy.
Powell rejected a request from the FCC’s two Democratic members to delay the June 2 decision so they could have more time to study the proposal.
The proposed plan, favored by the one-vote Republican majority and opposed by both Democratic members, would allow companies to own a greater concentration of TV stations in local markets, thus reaching as much as 90 percent of U.S. homes. It would increase the cap on ownership to 45 from 35 percent and simultaneously preserve a 1980’s formula that discounts the reach and viewership of UHF stations.
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