Plans by the FCC to lift the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban in the top 20 markets were spotlighted Wednesday at a hearing before the House Telecom Subcommittee, where FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and his four FCC colleagues fielded questions on the content and timing of revised media ownership rules that are scheduled for an FCC vote on December 18. Various House and Senate lawmakers and both FCC Democrats have faulted FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on the timing of the vote, which would come just over a month after the publication of the proposed rule on November 13. Asserting that the FCC’s schedule leaves insufficient time for public review and comment, Telecom Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) suggested that, “postponing the planned vote from December 18 would remove clouds of procedural objections that currently obscure the specifics of the proposal and hamper efforts to directly discuss them.” (Meanwhile, in a related development, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved legislation this week that would forbid the FCC from voting on media ownership rules until the agency completes a study on broadcast localism.) Fending off charges that he is rushing a vote, Martin replied that the FCC has undertaken a “lengthy, spirited, and careful reconsideration of our media ownership rules,” as he cited the series of public hearings conducted by the FCC on media ownership issues during the past year. Martin also responded to concerns that exceptions enabling entities within smaller media markets to own a newspaper and broadcast facility through a rule waiver would open potential loopholes. In addition to determining whether a newspaper in a smaller market is in “financial distress” as called for under current FCC rules, the proposed rule would allow the FCC to consider the level of ownership concentration in the affected market as well as the impact of the proposed cross-ownership on local news and independent news judgment. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps quipped that the new criteria allowing for cross-ownership waivers are “about as tough as a bowl of Jell-O.”