Vermont delegation seeks to overturn new FCC rule

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(Host) A Congressional effort to overturn a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission is gaining momentum in both the House and the Senate. The FCC rules change allowed for a greater consolidation of media outlets by large corporations. Vermont’s congressional delegation is very involved in this issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) At the beginning of June, the FCC in a 3-2 vote supported regulations that will allow a single company to own both a TV station and a newspaper in the same market. The ruling also allows the national TV networks to own a large number of stations.

In the Senate last week, a little used parliamentary motion known as a “Resolution of Disapproval” was invoked by 35 senators. This means that legislation that would overturn the FCC will now be placed on a fast track in the Senate. Senator James Jeffords strongly supports the effort to roll back the FCC decision:

(Jeffords) “Yes I do I think that what they’re doing is really a very politically minded situation, giving influence to those radio stations and groups that are basically beginning to control what we get on our radio and television.”

(Kinzel) Backers of the FCC ruling argue that there won’t be a consolidation of media sources because consumers have a wide variety of choices available through cable TV and the Internet. Jeffords doesn’t buy this argument:

(Jeffords) “I don’t believe that that is the correct answer because we don’t have that much – especially in rural areas like Vermont – we don’t have that much ability to search out and get what we want to hear. We have to take what’s available.”

(Kinzel) The House Appropriations Committee voted last week to block the plan to allow the networks to own more stations. Eleven Republicans joined with 29 Democrats to pass the provision. Congressman Bernie Sanders, who’s working to overturn the FCC rules, says this is one of those unusual issues where liberals and conservatives are joining together to form a powerful coalition:

(Sanders) “And these are people who are not particularly interested in representing big money corporate interests, but have a more conservative outlook in terms of what government should be doing or should not be doing. And those people – the people who are kind of main street conservatives, rural conservatives, grass roots conservatives – they’re looking up and saying, hey we don’t want a handful of companies to determine what we see hear and read. That’s not America.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says a bill overturning the FCC decision could be on the House floor for a vote by the end of the week

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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