US Congress votes to block FCC media ruling

MUMBAI: It is the sheer numbers that must have come as a shock to even the most hopeful - that somehow the 1 June ruling of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxing media ownership rules in favour of the big conglomerates would be overturned.

The US House of Representatives' vote of 400-to-21 was as near to unanimity as it could get. Congress has voted to back a bill that would deny funding to the commerce, state and justice departments as well as several agencies, including the FCC, rather than let those agencies use the money to enforce the new FCC rule that would allow America's largest networks to own 45 per cent of local broadcast stations rather than the current 35 per cent ceiling. The US Senate has already shown strong support for a similar measure.

Now it remains to be seen how US President George W Bush, who had earlier threatened to enforce a White house veto if Congress voted against the FCC. But the sheer scale of the resistance, might temper Bush's bombast, especially when he has enough headaches to deal with over the Iraq quagmire.

Opposition to the FCC vote has come from a wide and diverse cross-section, including the National Rifle Association and the National Organization for Women, as well as local broadcasters who are the most threatened by the onslaught that the big networks like Viacom and Rupert Murdoch's Fox could get going.

Senator Ernest Hollings, a South Carolina Democrat who is among the leading opponents of the FCC measure, was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement: "Since the FCC's ill-fated decision on June 2, we have seen a torrent of citizen outrage aimed at rule changes that will let big media get bigger, will allow programming decisions made in New York and Hollywood to trump community standards, and will reduce the number of diverse voices available in local communities."

Also read:

US FCC relaxes media ownership limits

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