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Senate Panel Approves Bush’s Nominees Sikes, Marshall, Barrett for FCC

August 1, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Senate committee on Tuesday approved President Bush’s three nominees for the Federal Communications Commission, clearing the way for expected speedy confirmation by the full Senate.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted 15-2 to approve the nominations of:

-Alfred C. Sikes, assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information. Bush has selected Sikes to become chairman of the five-member commission.

-Sherrie P. Marshall, a Washington attorney and former legislative aide to outgoing FCC Chairman Dennis R. Patrick.

-Andrew C. Barrett, a member of the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Committee Chairman Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., said he expected the full Senate to vote on the nominations before the August congressional recess, which is scheduled to begin Friday. They were expected to be confirmed easily.

The only committee opposition to the nominees came from Democrats Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Gore said he was sending a ″symbolic signal″ to the White House that he didn’t believe the new FCC would be an improvement on eight years of ″market- is-supreme″ deregulation during the Reagan administration.

″I don’t think what the FCC has been doing is in the public interest,″ said Gore, who at a confirmation hearing Monday had challenged the nominees on what they planned to do about indecent programming.

Gore, whose wife, Tipper, has led a grass-roots campaign against violent and suggestive lyrics in rock music, on Tuesday reiterated his displeasure with Barrett’s assertion that, much like illegal drugs are commonplace in society, a market also exists for indecent radio and TV shows.

Barrett said the FCC’s role was to decide ″what the law will allow us to tolerate.″

″There has been an attitude at the FCC that whatever the market is, we are going to accept it,″ Gore said Tuesday. ″I hope they will, if confirmed, not continue what they’ve been doing over at the FCC.″

The only outside opposition to the nominations has been from anti-indecency groups who think the FCC hasn’t been tough enough on broadcast smut and that Bush didn’t seek out nominees who were more likely to take a hard line against indecency.

Hollings, Gore and others hit hard on TV indecency, noting that until Congress stepped in to ban all indecent TV programs in 1988, the FCC had established a ″safe harbor″ for such shows from midnight to 6 a.m. when children were presumed not to be watching.

Sikes, a former Missouri broadcaster and self-described moderate, said he would vigorously attack obscene material on the airwaves, but that the Supreme Court has proscribed much of Congress’ power in the area of free speech and indecency.

The FCC last year tried to implement the 24-hour ban on indecent programming, but broadcasters and civil rights groups challenged it on constitutional grounds. A federal appeals court in January stayed imposition of the law.

Hollings and other committee members expressed hope that relations between the FCC and Congress would improve after lengthy battles with a commission headed by Patrick and his predecessor, Mark S. Fowler.

Major issues the new commission will face include the government role in fostering international competitiveness in areas such as high-definition television; further deregulation of the telephone industry; re-regulating cable television; and assignment of the airwaves to competing businesses such as cellular telephones and direct broadcast satellites.

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