Friday, July 25, 2003

FCC Rollback: No Half A Smackdown, Thank-you.

Stunning as that vote in the House was, it only rolled back one of the rule changes foisted on the American public by Michael Powell et al, which includes, by the way, the White House.

So we've preserved the national TV cap, (the number of Americans a single company can reach) to 35 %. That was the least of the new rule changes. Here's MoveOn's Eli Pariser on what's left to be done.

The rules relaxing bans on newspaper/broadcast cross ownership and local TV consolidation (duopolies) are what really hurt media diversity and independence. The White House and the Republican majority in Congress oppose repealing these rules. Nonetheless progressive Democrats made a bold effort. A full roll back was included in the Hinchey-Price-Inslee amendment that we petitioned on Tuesday after the Republicans tried to derail support by calling a surprise vote.

The ploy backfired, because MoveOn, in particular, managed to inspire a huge response; phones "rang off the hook., whose fascinating account of how all this happened is worth looking at, reports some offices received a 100 phone calls an hour.

The amendment hadn't been expected to pass, it had been designed to be a vehicle to show the continuing public support for a full rollback of the new rules. The 174 votes the amendment did get, including 34 Republicans, were way beyond insider projections, and gives the probable majority in the Senate for full repeal, tremendous leverage.

What's next is a two pronged effort. The House vote has energized Senators like Byron Dorgan to press for a "Resolution of Disapproval" that would repeal all of the FCC rules, which already has strong support in the Senate, although, due to the August recess, it won't be voted on until September. The Resolution would then move to the House for a vote.

That will give us, the great unwashed grassroots, whom the White House apparently views as not knowing what's good for us, two more opportunities to show them they need to reconsider the contempt that Michael Powell and his two cohorts displayed toward that large majority of Americans who are not true believers in the gospel of deregulation.

The final battle will be waged in the reconciliation negotiations in in the House/Senate conference on the bill. Tom DeLay, Billy Tauzin and an army of industry lobbyists will be circling the conference committee. If the Republicans decide once again to thwart the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, this is an issue that could make them pay a high price at the ballot box. It could even be the basis for a making the 2004 Congressional elections a national campaign.

As a last resort, the President will probably threaten a veto. To which I say, "bring it on," Mr. President.

In the meantime, if you'd like to know how your Representative voted on the amendment, you can find out here. If you're not pleased never hurts to let their office know; not for nothing are they called Representatives.