- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

MoveOn.org and some Democrats in Congress are challenging a proposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule change that would loosen federal regulation of media consolidation.

In an e-mail to supporters, MoveOn announced plans to stage a protest in Washington this morning outside the FCC headquarters on 12th Street in Southwest in advance of a 9 a.m. hearing inside the building.

This is the first major media push from the liberal advocacy group since coming under intense scrutiny for a newspaper advertisement attacking Gen. David H. Petraeus as a dissembler whose actions as commander in Iraq “betray us.”

The MoveOn e-mail expressed the group’s opposition to rule changes proposed by Commissioner Kevin J. Martin, a Republican, and provided its members with specific instructions on how to attend and potentially disrupt the FCC hearing.

Many liberal groups, particularly those with an antiwar focus, such as Code Pink, have carried out visible disruptions of congressional testimony a regular part of their organizational strategy.

“The one big benefit of a hearing in DC is that lots of national media will be there,” the e-mail said. “The more people at the rally, the stronger our message against media consolidation.”

In addition, Democratic lawmakers, led by New York’s Maurice D. Hinchey in the House and North Dakota’s Byron L. Dorgan in the Senate, plan to introduce legislation that would block the FCC from implementing its proposed changes before the end of the year.

“If in fact the chairman has indicated he intends to do media ownership by December of this year, there is going to be a firestorm of protest, and I’m going to be carrying the wood,” Mr. Dorgan said earlier this month.

There is also speculation Mr. Hinchey would include language in his anti-consolidation bill that would reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. A spokesman for Mr. Hinchey’s office told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity Monday that such plans are possible, but that Republican lawmakers and activists were exaggerating the impact and imminence of the possible move.

The spokesman did not respond yesterday to follow-up questions about today’s hearings or MoveOn’s plans.

The proposed changes would allow a media company to own TV stations and newspapers in the same market. Several media corporations, including News Corp., which owns Fox News, and the New York Times Co. support relaxing the rules.

Both MoveOn and Consumer Reports, which also opposes the proposed rule changes, have accused the FCC of not allowing enough time for debate on the issue. However, the FCC says that is not the case, noting it held a number of nationwide public meetings over the past 18 months in advance of today’s hearings.

Eight such meetings are expected to have been held before the FCC votes in December on the proposed changes.

An earlier attempt to ease media ownership rules was blocked in 2003 by the Republican-led Senate. Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, led a coalition of small-market news outlets and a bipartisan coalition of interest groups, including the National Rifle Association, in opposing the changes at the time.

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