Cantwell Puts FCC on Notice

Cantwell Tells FCC She Will Drop Legislation If FCC Moves Ahead Without Public Input

WASHINGTON, DC – Monday, U.S. Senator Cantwell (D-WA) and a bipartisan group of senators wrote to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin telling him that if the FCC proceeds to take final action on his proposed media ownership rules on December 18 without giving the public enough time to comment, she will immediately introduce and move legislation to revoke and nullify the December 18, 2007 rule.  At a Commerce Committee Hearing last Thursday, Cantwell expressed to Martin her concern that the FCC’s proposed new rules will increase media consolidation and hurt competition, diversity, and localism.
“Congress is certainly not afraid to take action against the FCC,” said Cantwell.  “Time and again we’ve told the FCC that if it moves forward without adequate feedback from the public, there will be consequences. There are consequences to ignoring the American public’s right to participate fully in the rule making process.  In the Senate, we’re going to make sure that if we have to pass legislation stopping the FCC, we will.”
Martin introduced his proposed rules to eliminate the longstanding prohibition of common ownership between a daily newspaper and a television or radio station on November 13, 2007, four days after the FCC held a public hearing on media ownership in Seattle. At the hearing, nearly 800 Washingtonians spent nine hours sharing their viewpoints with the FCC – the vast majority in strong opposition to increasing media concentration. Martin plans to bring the proposed rule up for a vote on December 18, 2007, even though the public has had only three weeks to comment on the proposed rule, and the FCC has had one week to review those comments.
Cantwell will also continue her work with Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and others on the Media Ownership Act of 2007 to restore a deliberative process to the FCC’s rulemakings on localism and media ownership. A major piece of the Act strengthens the public’s ability to comment on proposed rules.
 [Text of the Senator’s letter to Chairman Martin follows below]
December 17, 2007
The Honorable Kevin J. Martin
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Chairman Martin:
We believe your determined push to relax media ownership rules by forcing a vote on December 18th short circuits the public comment period that would normally accompany a major rule change of this type. It is customary to provide a reasonable period for comment when proposing rule changes in order to allow the American people an opportunity to review, understand and comment.
When you proposed a new rule on the effects of communications towers on migratory birds, you allowed for a 90 day comment period. How could you decide to allow 90 days for a migratory bird rule and then shortchange the public on the media ownership rule? You claim that you have given the public adequate opportunity by holding hearings across the country on media ownership issues and allowing a 120 day comment period. But no one attending those hearings or submitting comments could have been prepared to assess a proposed rule that didn’t exist.
You announced the rule in a press release on November 13, 2007 with a comment period of just 28 days ending on December 11, 2007. You announced you would take final action on the rule just one week later on December 18, 2007. That simply is not justifiable. We know you are aware that the Senate Commerce Committee has unanimously passed a piece of legislation asking you to defer action on December 18th. We believe you have shortchanged the comment process and because you have not completed a full review of localism prior to forcing a vote on a rule change dealing with media ownership limits.
With this in mind we are writing to notify you that if you proceed to take final action on this rule on December 18th without having given a reasonable opportunity for comment on the actual rules and study the related issues, we will immediately introduce and move legislation that will revoke and nullify the December 18th rule. We are notifying you and others of this proposed action in order to make certain you understand the consequences of ignoring the need for and the right of the American people to play a constructive role in attempts by a federal agency to change rules that have a substantial impact on the American people.
 The actions you plan to take on December 18th will short circuit the American public’s involvement in these decisions. We request and expect that you will postpone the action scheduled for December 18, 2007.
Sens. Maria Cantwell, Ted Stevens, Byron Dorgan, Daniel Inouye, Trent Lott, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Ron Wyden, Olympia Snowe, Kent Conrad, Claire McCaskill, Mark Pryor, Blanche Lincoln, Robert Casey, Dianne Feinstein, Jack Reed, Bernard Sanders, Russ Feingold, Bill Nelson, Joe Biden, Jon Tester, Chris Dodd, Larry Craig, Barbara Boxer, Robert Menendez
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