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Powell: ‘Don’t’ Sweat’ Media Consolidation

Powell: 'Don't' Sweat' Media Consolidation

FCC Chairman Michael Powell told members of the Senate Commerce Committee that some of their fears of rampant media consolidation were unfounded, and he urged lawmakers to be skeptical of the “melodramatic version” of what might happen after the FCC revises several media ownership rules this spring.
The comments came during a hearing on competition in the telecommunications industry. Most of the discussion focused on telephony issues, but senators of both parties voiced concern over fewer owners controlling the media landscape.
Five media ownership regulations are under a congressionally mandated review by the FCC, including the local radio ownership limits.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., senators urged the commission to proceed carefully on any relaxation of the rules.
Powell said the radio ownership rules were devised by the previous, Democrat-controlled commission based on Congress’ interpretation of the ’96 Telecommunications Act. He said antitrust laws would ensure that the senators’ fears would not be realized.
Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps was not so sure. “I hope you will sweat it,” he said. “I don’t think we’re being melodramatic.”
Powell said decisions on the ownership laws are expected in mid- to late spring.