Thursday, January 27, 2005

Small Victories
Here's at least one aspect of our public life that won't get even worse anytime soon: the administration announced today that it would abandon the effort led by outgoing FCC head Michael Powell to ease restrictions on media ownership rules.

This is good news, albeit with a bad reason behind it:

In a final slap at Mr. Powell, the Justice Department will not ask the United States Supreme Court to consider a decision last year by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia that sharply criticized the attempt to deregulate the rules and ordered the commission to reconsider its action.

Big media companies have been urging the administration to get involved in the case. But its decision not to recommend that the Supreme Court take the case sharply reduces the odds that the justices would intervene. The court had set next Monday as a deadline for the parties to file their initial papers in the appeal.

Officials said one reason the administration decided not to seek Supreme Court review is that some lawyers were concerned that the case could prompt the justices to review related First Amendment issues in a way that could undermine efforts by the commission to enforce indecency rules against television and radio broadcasters. Over the last year, the agency has issued a record number and size of fines, and has been pressed by some conservative and other advocacy groups to be more aggressive.

This is actually kind of remarkable, if you think about it: for the first time I can remember, the Bush administration is putting the interests of its social conservative supporters, aghast at seeing more bared boobies or even the word "damn" in future Super Bowl broadcasts, before the interests of its money men. I doubt this will start a trend, or even get the culture warriors to back off their "ban gay marriage now" snit fit, but anything that pisses off Rupert Murdoch and his fellow media moguls--and cheers what the Times calls "an unusual coalition of labor, consumer, religious, artistic and civil rights organizations"--should be greeted with a smile.

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