Sept. 16, 2003
Disapproving Federal Communications Commission Broadcast Media Ownership Rule
(At the request of Mr. DASCHLE, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the RECORD.)
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today the Senate will vote on a joint resolution, of which I am a proud cosponsor, to disapprove the Federal Communications Commission's June 2, 2003, rules designed to loosen restrictions on broadcast media ownership. It is the Commission's responsibility to ensure that media ownership rules serve our national goals of diversity, competition and localism. Unfortunately, the Commission's June 2, 2003, ruling fails to meet this standard.
The resolution before us today would reverse the FCC's decision to change the national television ownership cap from 35 percent to 45 percent, a decision that threatens local and independent voices in television. The television industry is undergoing rapid consolidation as a handful of national networks have acquired local stations across the country. I am concerned that when local stations are purchased by a national network, independent voices are lost in the media
marketplace. Locally owned and operated stations are more likely to be responsive to local needs, interests and values than those stations owned and operated by national networks. Indeed many local stations are small businesses that drive innovative competition. A system of concentrated station ownership will trend toward nationalized programming aimed primarily at maximizing revenue with less concern for local interests and less room for competition.
The resolution before us today will also reverse the FCC's decision to significantly loosen restrictions on cross-ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers within single markets. The cross-ownership rule is intended to increase or at least maintain the number of independent editorial voices in a community. This is especially important in smaller communities where citizens have fewer media operations covering local matters. While there is scant evidence that weakening this rule will result in significant economic benefit, leading academics and media experts have argued that doing so will dangerously reduce the venues for independent public discourse.
I am also concerned with the process by which the FCC conducted these proceedings. This media ownership rulemaking is among the most important the FCC has undertaken, and it has garnered unprecedented public interest. Despite this, the Commission moved forward with dramatic rule changes without first taking public comment on a specific proposal. The Commission's outreach was simply insufficient. All parties concerned would have been better served if the Commission published a specific proposal and then allowed for a period of public comment before promulgating any rule changes.
The Commission's first responsibility is to ensure diversity, competition and localism. The Commission has no responsibility to facilitate the business plans of the major networks or any other narrow economic interest. I strongly support the disapproval resolution before us today.·