SENATOR HOLLINGS TO THE RESCUE
Jeff Chester writes: Public interest advocates claim a victory in their fight against the seemingly invincible media-consolidation juggernaut. Ernest Hollings, the octogenarian “junior” senator from South Carolina and Democratic chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, answered the advocates’ call for an investigation of the Administration’s latest media maneuvers and dealt the White House one of its few defeats in the media policy realm. Hollings forced the Bush team to abandon a plan that would have radically restructured the merger review process. Hatched in secret over several months with the input of industry-connected “advisers,” the Administration plan, put into place in March, removed all media-, communications-, Internet- and software-related mergers from FTC purview. Traditionally, the Justice Department and FTC have shared jurisdiction over media- and Internet-related mergers, but Bush officials and industry lobbyists, arguing for a more “efficient” review process, wanted to turn these matters over to the DOJ exclusively. In light of the rubber-stamp support for media deregulation at the FCC, there was great concern over the removal of the FTC from merger oversight. Unlike the DOJ, the FTC is bipartisan by law, and it also brings a consumer focus to the antitrust review process. Fortunately, the back-room DOJ-FTC deal was terminated in late May, after Senator Hollings threatened to cut the budget of both agencies. Hollings also took the initiative to insure that FCC chairman Mike Powell takes a more honest look at the impact of media consolidation on our democracy. Joined by Senators Herb Kohl and Mike DeWine, Hollings requested that the FCC study “concentration in the television programming marketplace and its impact on program diversity.” Powell has told public interest groups that they must “prove or lose” critical safeguards on media ownership. Now he’ll have to provide evidence that media monopoly encourages diverse voices and quality programming.
MOST FASCINATING JOKE OF THE WEEK
From the Sun, New York City’s new right-wing paper: “The evening’s honorary chairman was Peggy Noonan, who brought the house down with her anecdotes, including a hilarious joke about Vice President Gore, President Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Blair and Secretary of State Powell. I’ll give you the punch line at another time.” Readers are invited to concoct a joke using the above personages, with punch line.
NEWS OF THE WEAK IN REVIEW
Two-thirds of Americans, commie sympathizers? Asked in a nationwide survey, commissioned by Columbia Law School, whether the Constitution includes “the following statement about the proper role of government: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,'” 35 percent answered “yes” and 34 percent “don’t know.” Further rampant radicalism: 60 percent said (correctly) that the President may not suspend the Bill of Rights “in time of war or…national emergency.”