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Originally published Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:11 PM

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House GOP legislation abets FCC sluggishness on media matters

FCC legislation passed by the Republican House would further impede the commission's review of media consolidations, mergers and minority-ownership issues. Follow the campaign money.

Seattle Times Editorial

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GETTING the Federal Communications Commission to pay attention to trends in media consolidation and the lack of opportunities to diversify media ownership has been a frustrating, often futile, mission.

Legislation passed by a lopsided Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives would only make things worse, which is exactly the point of the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act of 2012.

HR 3309 was artfully designed to layer on process, analysis and faux transparency. Exactly the kind of scrutiny the GOP has refused to restore to Wall Street and Main Street banking and investment practices.

"The bill erects procedural hurdles that make it more difficult for the FCC to protect consumers," Rep. Henry Waxman, the senior Democrat on the House Energy & Commerce Committee told The Hill. "It strips the FCC of its power to ensure that mergers between telecommunications interests are in the public interest."

MapLight, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that tracks money in politics, took a look at the financial ties between those telecommunications interests and the bill's prime sponsors.

The author of the bill, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., is the second-largest recipient of contributions from interest groups that supported the bill. He is the largest recipient of contributions from Comcast and the second-largest recipient of contributions from CenturyLink in the House, according to MapLight.

Other bill sponsors were also lined up with outstretched palms.

As with many of the wackier bits of environmental legislation out of the GOP House, this will not get by the Democratic Senate. But the effect is to help an already docile FCC further drag its bureaucratic feet on public-interest issues.

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