Populist outrage is threatening to undo a controversial effort by the
FCC to loosen restraints on media megaliths. In the Senate last week,
seven Republicans joined 28 Democrats to schedule a rare "resolution
of disapproval" to overturn new FCC rules that would let companies
like News Corp. and Viacom expand their media holdings in local
markets. Then in the House, defecting Republicans fueled a 40-to-25
committee vote to reverse part of the FCC's action.
Now it appears that the chief architect of those rules, FCC chairman
Michael Powell, may not stick around for the fight. According to
industry sources, the son of Secretary of State Colin Powell has told
confidants he'd like to leave by fall, and three of his four top
staff members are putting out job feelers. (Powell has denied he's
leaving soon.) His most likely replacement, sources say, is either
Rebecca Klein, who is head of the Texas public-utility commission and
was on the staff of Governor George W. Bush, or FCC commissioner
Kevin Martin, who helped the Bush team count votes in Florida in
Powell rammed through the new rulesallowing a single company to own
TV stations that reach up to 45% of the national market, an increase
from the old 35% cap, and lifting the ban on a company's owning both
a newspaper and a TV station in the same marketon a party-line vote
in June. But groups as disparate as the National Organization for
Women and the National Rifle Association are decrying the move. In a
new Pew Research poll, respondents most familiar with the FCC's
action opposed it by roughly
10 to 1. Still, it has the support of key g.o.p. leaders, and
President Bush has threatened to veto any bill overturning it.
Republicans who are breaking ranks on the issue face growing party
pressure. On the morning of the vote, Congressman Zach Wamp, a
Republican from Tennessee who voted to kill the FCC plan, spotted
House Energy and Commerce Committee
chairman Billy Tauzin, who backs it. "I kind of ducked to the left,"
he said, "went around a column and down three flights of stairs."
With reporting by Eric Roston