WASHINGTON – A government overhaul of rules that limit ownership of newspapers and radio and television stations probably will be completed in May, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday.
The agency is studying whether decades-old ownership restrictions are suitable for a market altered by satellite broadcasts, cable television and the Internet. The FCC planned a public hearing Thursday in Richmond, Va., on its six media ownership rules.
Chairman Michael Powell and the four other commissioners testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel Wednesday.
Democratic commissioner Michael Copps has sought more public hearings on the media ownership review and plans to hold his own next month in Seattle and Durham, N.C. It is uncertain if the other commissioners will attend.
"We need to hear from people all across this land of ours," Copps said told House members. "We need studies both broad and deep before we plunge ahead to remake the media landscape."
Powell said the Richmond hearing is enough because the agency already has received thousands of public comments, most sent by e-mail.
"This is one of the most extensively developed records in the history of the commission," he said. "You can develop record until you're blue in the face but at some point people expect you to take a position."
A 1996 telecommunications law required the FCC to periodically review ownership rules in light of industry changes.
It is widely believed that Powell and two other Republicans on the commission want to loosen regulations.
Media companies including the owners of the four major television networks have asked the FCC to abolish the ownership rules, saying the regulations restrict their ability to grow and stay competitive.
Groups representing consumers, broadcasters, entertainers and other media workers argue that the restrictions should remain to prevent a handful of giant companies from controlling what people watch, hear and read.