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Senate Panel Temporarily Blocks FCC Media Ownership Rules

Tuesday, March 9, 2004
Susan Herold, 202-462-6262

Senate Committee Blocks FCC Ownership Rules Until Studied for Impact on Indecency
CU Applauds Move to Expand Decency Debate into Media Ownership, Cable a la carte

(Washington, D.C.) – Consumers Union applauded the Senate Commerce Committee’s decision today to block implementation of the Federal Communications Commission’s lax media ownership rules until the impact of media consolidation on indecent programming is thoroughly studied.
“The committee expanded the indecency debate to include other important concerns, such as determining if large media conglomerates pump excessive amounts of offensive or unwanted programming into consumers’ homes,” said Gene Kimmelman, senior public policy director for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
The committee amended S. 2056, the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, to include a one-year moratorium on the new FCC ownership rules – which allow more media consolidation – until their impact on indecent programming can be studied. The committee also approved an amendment to limit violent programming from family-viewing hours.
Some members of the committee – led by Chairman John McCain and Sen. Ernest Hollings – also voiced support for cable “a la carte” as another means of giving consumers control of the programming that comes into their homes, although the measure was not voted on. “A la carte” would require cable and satellite providers to offer consumers the ability to pick and pay only for the channels they want, rather than the current industry practice of forcing consumers to purchase large packages of channels, often with content they find inappropriate.
“We are heartened that Senators McCain and Hollings expressed the desire to give consumers the ability to choose a la carte programming as another tool to control the programming that comes into their homes,” Kimmelman said. “We will continue to push the Senate to consider cable a la carte, which will give consumers the right to eliminate programming that they don’t want to receive or pay for.”

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.