FCC to examine media ownership rules Wed.

There's an idea floating around the hallways of the FCC that could satisfy the wishes of senators who want the agency to ensure broadcasters maintain their local public service obligations. An open meeting is scheduled for tomorrow (June 21) to look at broadcast ownership rules.

Earlier this month, Senators Byron Dorgan, D., N.D., and Trent Lott, R., Miss., told FCC commissioner Kevin Martin that a long-standing and voluminous proceeding on localism must be completed before the FCC takes "any further steps" in attempting to change the current media ownership rules.

The FCC's agenda includes a vote on the re-examination of the ownership rules. According to sources familiar with the measures, staffers at the Commission want the FCC to consider turning the proceeding on localism into a new, official Notice of Proposed Rule Making, which could more quickly set in motion any rule changes.

The localism proceeding (MB Docket No. 04-233) is still operating as a Notice of Inquiry (NOI), a preliminary step on the regulatory. Sources say the FCC's commissioners could easily change the status of the localism proceeding, if they were to agree that such a move would also keep the media ownership debate on track.

Senators Lott and Dorgan wrote in a letter in late May that said "despite the fact that this proceeding has been ongoing since 2003, there has been no report or recommendation issued by either the Localism Task Force or the FCC."

The senators said it was "critical" that the FCC issue a notice of proposed rule making -- along with a final order -- before attempting to jump into any media ownership rule changes.