Senators seek to overturn new FCC media ownership rules
A bipartisan group of senators today introduced a resolution to stop regulators from easing media-ownership rules in the nation's 20 largest...
AP Business Writer
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators today introduced a resolution to stop regulators from easing media-ownership rules in the nation's 20 largest cities.
They fear the Federal Communication Communications (FCC) rule would leave newspaper readers, radio listeners and TV viewers with fewer choices. Several consumer groups are challenging the rule in federal court.
The "resolution of disapproval" was introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., — along with 13 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors — to stop the FCC from implementing the new rule that the agency approved in December. The FCC published the cross-ownership rule in the Federal Register on Feb. 21.
"When nearly half of the people in this country are told that in their cities and towns the media will get the green light to consolidate, they will not be happy," said Dorgan in a release. "The proposal would also create a greatly relaxed approval process for newspapers to buy TV stations in any U.S. media market and spur a new wave of media consolidation in both large and small media markets."
Dorgan said the FCC "ignored the thousands of comments at public hearings" opposed to further consolidation.
An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment on the resolution.
Justin Kitsch, a spokesman for Dorgan, said the Senate has 60 legislative days to vote on the resolution.
The agency's new rule overturns a 32-year-old ban intended to keep major media companies from monopolizing newspapers and broadcasters in their market.
Marvin Ammori, general counsel with Free Press, said his public interest group and others are challenging the rule in federal court. He said the rule won't take effect until they get a decision, which could take several months.
Advocacy groups fear the cross-ownership loosening will spread beyond the top 20 markets, where companies, such as the Tribune Co., Media General and Gannett, would buy up competitors in smaller cities.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who voted for the measure along with his two Republican colleagues, pressed for a vote on the measure despite opposition from some Capitol Hill lawmakers to delay it.
The agency's two Democrats say the rule will trigger more consolidation. Martin contends that in the top 20 media markets, the FCC would have a high threshold for approving co-ownership.
Kitsch said Dorgan and former Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., passed a resolution to overturn a similar FCC rule in 2003 that would have permitted more media consolidation. A year later, the FCC decision was rejected by a rejected by a federal appeals court and the rules were sent back to the FCC for review.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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