June 23, 2003 -- We know both the process and the policy put forth by the FCC on June 2nd was wrong for the country. On June 3rd, we began a movement that is working on both the short-term problem of the recent FCC vote, as well as the longer-term issues surrounding media in America, and its essential role in our democracy.

Much more work lies ahead on both our short-term and long-term goals, but what emerged from the Senate Commerce Committee last week is a bill that could form the basis for not only overturning the FCC decision – but also at taking a good hard look at how we got here.

If passed by Congress, as amended today, S.1046, the “Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity, and Competition in Television Broadcast Act of 2003,” will preserve the rule that restricts one company to owning television stations that reach no more than 35 percent of U.S. TV households

A bipartisan amendment sponsored by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-! ND), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will also prevent one company from owning a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market. An amendment added by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) also passed, responding to the closed process conducted by the FCC before the June 2 vote. The amendment will require the FCC to hold at least five geographically diverse formal public hearings the next time an ownership rule change comes up for consideration.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) added an amendment that addresses the consolidation of radio and that would help reverse the control that Clear Channel now exerts over the market.

In the weeks before the FCC’s vote, more than three-quarters of a million people showed their opposition to the rule changes by sending their comments to the FCC. An unusual coalition of groups – from Common Cause to MoveOn.org to the National Rifle Association – joined together in their concern about media deregulation. After the FCC decision, hundreds of thousands of Americans told members of the Senate Commerce Committee to roll back the media ownership changes.

Even though we are pleased with the quick action in the Senate Commerce Committee and are encouraged by other calls to action in the Senate, this is only the first step in giving the airwaves back to the public. We need the support of the full Senate and House of Representatives to overturn the changes made by the FCC.

Whatever the end result of the legislation approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, a new era has begun. More than ever, the American public is aware that a diverse and independent media is integral to a healthy democracy.

-- CauseNet (Common Cause)