CauseNET for November 10, 2003

Today, the Senate is expected to begin debate on a spending bill that includes a provision that blocks the FCC from implementing a higher ownership cap – a "cap" that allows one company to own television stations reaching up to 45 percent of the national audience. The provision now in the spending bill (H.R. 2799) maintains the current 35 percent national cap. The House approved a similar measure, keeping the 35 percent limit, by a vote of 400-21.

Unfortunately, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is threatening to strip this language from the bill by offering an amendment to allow the higher 45 percent ownership cap.

On the up side, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is expected to offer an amendment that would re-impose the newspaper-TV cross-ownership ban. Without such a ban, one media giant could own a local newspaper, up to three TV stations and up to eight radio stations in one media market.

These votes may be the Senate's last opportunity this year to address media ownership issues. This could be our last chance to tell Congress we oppose the FCC's outrageous and unpopular media ownership rules – rules that will increase media consolidation and decrease the diversity of voices that is so important to our democracy.

Please call your Senators today and ask them to vote:

1. AGAINST Sen. McCain's amendment allowing the higher 45 percent national ownership cap favored by the FCC


2. FOR Sen. Hutchison's amendment re-imposing the newspaper-TV cross-ownership ban

If you know who your Senators are, you may call the Capitol Switchboard and ask for them directly:

=> 202-224-3121

Otherwise, you can look up your Senators and their numbers here:

CauseNET for September 16, 2003

This morning, the U.S. Senate listened to the voices of thousands of Americans by voting resoundingly in favor of reversing the changes made by the Federal Communications Commission to media ownership rules in June.

By using the Congressional Review Act, Congress passed a resolution in a 55-40 vote to roll back the FCC rules. This rarely used legislative tool was employed today to assure that citizens have access to diverse sources of information and to prevent media giants from controlling what Americans read and hear every day.

This victory sends a clear signal to the House and Senate leadership that the FCC rules must be rolled back, most notably in the face of a veto threat from President Bush last month. This strong showing by the Senate will also put pressure on the House to take up the issue and give its Members the opportunity to correct the FCC's mistake.

CauseNET for September 15, 2003
Tell your Senator to support the Dorgan-Lott Resolution to overturn the FCC's June 2 vote.  Call Your Senator today by using the Capitol Switchboard: 202.224.3121.  The vote will be close.

Your voice is getting through to Congress! The full Senate will hold an historic vote on media consolidation tomorrow (Tuesday, September 16). Thanks to the millions of calls, letters and petitions from Americans from across the country and the political spectrum, the Dorgan-Lott resolution has moved through the Senate to a vote of the full floor at record pace. This is another example of how your efforts have kept this issue front and center.

The Dorgan-Lott resolution uses the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn all the media consolidation rules the FCC approved on June 2. The CRA acts as a sort of congressional veto. Congress has successfully used this legislative tactic only once before, just more evidence of the strong bipartisan desire in Congress to address the issue of media consolidation and corporate control of the airwaves.

We expect the vote to be extremely close on Tuesday so your calls will really count! This vote is important because it is the first opportunity the Senate has had to address this issue and for Senators to publicly be counted. A resounding victory for the Dorgan-Lott Resolution sends a clear signal to the House and Senate leadership and the White House that the FCC rules must be rolled back.

Free Press
Monday, September 10th, 2003 

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), and co-sponsors Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) and presidential candidate John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), introduced the rarely-used CRA to roll back all of the rules passed on June 2 by the FCC.

Senator Dorgan said, "We are moving to roll back one of the most complete cave-ins to corporate interests I've ever seen by what is supposed to be a federal regulatory agency."

The measure would require a simple majority of the Senate for passage.  If it is approved by the Senate, it moves directly to the House calendar, bypassing powerful committees, such as those headed by Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), whose members have vowed to block attempts to overturn the FCC's rules. The CRA would be difficult to pass in the House, but it’s success in the Senate will determine the success of other FCC rollback legislation coming to the Senate floor later this month.

The Congressional Review Act of 1996 gives Congress 60 session days to review and, if it chooses, reject an agency’s rule. A resolution of disapproval is introduced under special expedited procedures, and Senate filibusters are banned. The President can veto it.

If the motion to disapprove passes in both the House and Senate, and is then signed by the President, the rule essentially disappears. Even if it has already taken effect, the agency (in this case, the FCC) that issued it can no longer enforce the regulation or defend it in court. Furthermore, the agency is banned from pushing a similar version of the rule at a later date.

For more information on the rollback and media reform efforts, go to

CauseNET for September 9, 2003

This week, Senator Byron Dorgan expected to get time for debate and a floor vote on his resolution to overturn the FCC's June 2 rules using the Congressional Review Act.

Common Cause strongly supports Senator Dorgan's resolution. The FCC acted without consulting the American public. Chairman Powell ignored strong and very thoughtful comments by consumer groups, children's advocates, and media reform groups that opposed this relaxation of media ownership rules. And Powell held only one public hearing - in Richmond, Virginia. The only interests that got to first base at the FCC were the big media companies. The companies - and their desire to increase their profits - had the most impact on the FCC.

Call Your Senator today by using the Capitol Switchboard: 202.224.3121. Tell your Senator to support Senator Dorgan's resolution to overturn the FCC's June 2 vote using the Congressional Review Act.

The FCC's vote was in direct opposition to the views of nearly 2 million Americans who contacted the agency and whose views span the ideological and political spectrum - from NOW to the Christian Coalition to the NRA to MoveOn.

The FCC rules will make it harder for citizens to have access to diverse sources of information.

One corporation could own the daily newspaper, up to three TV stations and up to 8 radio stations in one media market.

The new rules will make it much more difficult for women and minorities to own media outlets. Big corporations will bid up the price of TV stations and newspapers and keep them out of the financial reach of women, Latinos, and African-Americans.

A federal district court in Philadelphia only last week imposed a stay on the rules until the courts could decide whether they should go forward on their merits. The court understood that the rules potentially could harm citizens by spurring waves of media mergers and consolidations.

Whatever your views on individual portions of the FCC's rules, it's clear that the agency needs to go back to the drawing board and begin again. This time, it has to seriously consider the views of the American public. And it has to address core values like localism and the public interest obligations of broadcasters. These rules are much too important to be left to FCC officials and corporate special interests.

This vote is important because it is the first opportunity the Senate has to address this issue and for Senators to be counted. A resounding victory for the Dorgan resolution sends a clear signal to the House and Senate leadership and the White House that the FCC rules must be rolled back.


The MoveOn Team
September 8th, 2003

Last spring, MoveOn members joined with members of groups from Common Cause and NOW to the NRA to voice our opposition to an FCC rule change that would alter the dynamics of the American news media. The rule change proposed to tear down old boundaries that controlled how much of the media in a given community (and in the entire country) could be owned by one company.

After over 2 million Americans wrote the FCC to oppose the change, the FCC chairman, Michael Powell, pushed through the rule change anyway, in a 3-2 party line vote. But Congress was watching, and when we asked Congress to roll back the rule change, Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle were listening.

In July, the House struck down one piece of the rule change by a 400-to-21 vote. It was a big win, and media companies were shocked. As big contributors to both political parties, media conglomerates had assumed that their bottom line would be Congress' first priority. "Never before have I seen an FCC chairman's decision repudiated by the House of Representatives so quickly and so emphatically," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

So, in August, the media companies fought back. They launched a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign, using distorted polls and misleading advertising to twist the arms of members of the Senate.

Now, in the next week, the final vote on rolling back the FCC rule change will come to the Senate floor.

Here's a great fact sheet on the current situation, from the Consumer Federation of America.


Major FCC Rules under consideration:

1) National Broadcast Cap: Limits percentage of the national audience that one network may reach to 35%. New rules lift percentage to 45%.

2) Cross Ownership Rule: Bans mergers between newspapers, radio stations, and local television broadcasters. New rule would lift the ban in over 80% of markets.

3) Duopoly/Triopoly Rule: Prevents one company from owning more than one major television station in most markets. The new rule would allow one company to own three stations in about 20 markets and one company to own two TV stations in an additional 100 markets.


CauseNET For July 25, 2003

Bush Administration Ignores Public Outcry and Threatens VETO of Bipartisan Effort to Rollback Controversial Media Ownership Rules

The American public made it clear - they didn't like the FCC decision - and both Democrats and Republicans in Congress agreed.

The fight to roll back the controversial changes to media ownership rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved in June has enjoyed broad support in Congress and attracted the attention and concern of Americans from across the political spectrum. Nearly two million Americans told the FCC they opposed the new rules, and growing numbers continue to contact their elected officials in Congress to urge them to support a rollback of the rules. 

The issue has emerged from the obscurity of a regulatory commission to ignite the formation of a coalition of organizations and individuals from the left and right that is rarely seen in our country. Now we have a new threat to our efforts.

The media industry has spent more than $124 million on political contributions and lobbying in Washington since 1995. Media interests are pressing Congress not to roll back the ownership rules because media consolidation will increase their profits. They are asking the White House to block any congressional rollback of the FCC rules.

The Bush Administration is threatening to veto legislation that would restore safeguards against further media consolidation. The Administration has warned Congress that, "If this amendment were contained in the final legislation presented to the President, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill."

We need to tell President Bush to listen to the American people, not to the media industry or his "senior advisors."


Free Press, July 24, 2003

Because of public pressure, the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved an appropriations bill that blocks one of the FCC's new rules. The bill prohibits expanding the number of American TV viewers one media company may reach to 45%. It holds the cap at 35%. This is great news, but it's not over.

The national TV cap is the least substantive rule change. 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.

Thanks to you, phones rang "off the hook" according to House staffers. In the hours before the critical vote, voices from the public changed minds in the Congress. Although the amendment lost, it received a remarkable 174 votes, including 34 Republicans -- far more than insiders thought possible. Getting a strong vote was the mission, and we accomplished it. We needed to show legislators that there is strong support in the House for the full FCC rollback.

The complex Congressional process now takes the FCC rollback on two possible paths:

1) The strong showing in the House on appropriations gives repeal-minded Senators exceptional leverage in the House/Senate conference negotiations on this bill. One or more rules are likely to be rolled back in this conference.

2) The Senate is pursuing a parallel strategy. A "Resolution of Disapproval" that would repeal all of the FCC rules has strong support in the Senate and has a good chance of passing in September. It would then come to the House for another fight.

The House-Senate appropriations conference won't happen until September. In the meantime, we are working tirelessly to ensure that the Senate is skillfully coordinated and that the House Democrats are unified when this comes back to the floor.

After years in which media companies have rolled their agenda over Congress with few objections, Congressman Inslee said a "tsunami" of public pressure was starting to change the course of Congress. He was right. Growing numbers of Americans are realizing that real democracy demands democratic media, and Congress is listening - thanks to you.

Go to for more information on the fight in Congress and media reform efforts across the country. 

To see how your Representative voted on the important Hinchey/Price/Inslee amendment, check out: 


Free Press, July 22, 2003

When the cross-ownership rule was originally adopted by the FCC in 1975, the Commission concluded that it is “unrealistic to expect true diversity from a commonly owned station-newspaper combination.” This is as true today as it was over two decades ago. Back then, three-quarters of all dailies were owned by local families. Today, most cities and towns have only one newspaper and most of the nation’s 1,500 dailies are owned by national chains. Gannett now owns one out of every seven newspapers sold in the U.S. Along with Knight Ridder and the Tribune Co. they account for one-quarter of all daily newspaper circulation. In local broadcasting, behind today’s seeming variety of television choices are in reality five behemoths: Disney (which owns ABC), Viacom (CBS and United Paramount Network), AOL-Time Warner (the WB), News Corporation (Fox), and General Electric (NBC).

The elimination of the cross-ownership ban will over time likely lead to a reduction from four (one paper, three TV) to three in the number of separately-owned local news media outlets in most media markets. Co-owned newspaper and broadcast stations will merge news operations--as they have where these combinations already operate under FCC waivers or grandfather arrangements--thus eliminating a separate, distinct, and independent voice. The result: According to The Project for Excellence in Journalism growing consolidation in the news business has led to a serious decline in the quality and quantity of local news as distant corporate media executives demand cuts in news budgets to boost profits.

Restoration of the cross-ownership rule is vital to preserving what remains of independent, local voices in news and information reporting. Should economic circumstances require it, the previous cross-ownership rule had allowed the FCC to grant waivers based on local market conditions. This was an appropriate mechanism to deal with markets in which cross-ownership might serve the public interest by saving a failing newspaper or broadcast station.

In the news and information business, competition and diversity help preserve localism in news coverage, enhance the quality and comprehensiveness of news content, assure a multiplicity of voices from a variety of independent sources and reduce the risk that news will be censored or slanted by a few controlling interests. In the entertainment sector, they stimulate the kinds of creativity and variety in programming that the American public has come to expect but that has significantly diminished since the FCC repealed the Financial Interest and Syndication Rule in 1993.

In our democratic society, media ownership matters. It matters because ultimately it is the deciding factor that determines what your constituents have access to in news, entertainment and information. Most importantly, it matters to our democracy because an informed public is the bedrock of our free and open society. For more information on media reform and how to get involved, go to


CauseNET for July 21, 2003

Last week about 75 television network executives descended on Capitol Hill to tell Congress that the nearly two million Americans who have voiced their opinion on the new FCC media ownership rules are wrong – the network power play didn’t work.

==> ACT NOW:

The strong bipartisan movement in both chambers to restore the FCC rules made significant progress last week. The House Appropriations Committee basically voted to restore the ownership cap to its original 35% limit by refusing to fund the implementation of the regulation. In the Senate, the bipartisan Stevens-Hollings bill, picked up six additional co-sponsors, Senators Bob Graham (FL), Hillary Clinton (NY), Jack Reed (RI), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Joseph Biden (DE), and Norm Coleman (MN).

We must keep the pressure on because this legislation needs to move quickly through Congress. Why? The clock is ticking. Unless Congress acts, the FCC can put these new rules into effect, perhaps as early as September- if Congress does not overturn these rules before it officially comes time to begin to implement them, much will be lost! In the House, that means supporting H.2052, and S.1046 in the Senate.