Daschle Calls for Rollback of Cross-Ownership Rules

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By: Jonathan D. Salant, Associated Press Writer

(AP) Senate Democrats will try to impose more restrictive rules on how many TV stations a company can own.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Tuesday that his party would try to add a provision that would limit companies to owning TV stations that reach 35% of the viewing public, down from the 39% cap in the giant spending bill that Congress approved in January.

Daschle, in a speech to the annual legislative conference of the National Association of Broadcasters, said Senate Democrats would try to amend some unspecified piece of legislation to roll back the cap. He said he also would try to roll back other media ownership rules adopted last year by the Federal Communications Commission, including a provision allowing companies to own newspapers and broadcast stations in the same community. “We have to reduce the concentration of ownership,” he said.

The move comes at a time when lawmakers have criticized what they say is an increased amount of indecency on the airwaves. The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday is expected to raise the maximum fine for indecency from $27,500 to $275,000.

The Republican-controlled FCC adopted the rules on a 3-2 party-line vote. They were challenged in court and have put on hold to wait for a decision from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. Oral arguments were heard last month.

The FCC initially enacted a 45% cap. Both houses of Congress voted to reduce the cap to the current 35%, but agreed to the 39% limit after President Bush threatened to veto the giant spending bill. The 39% limit allows Viacom Inc. and News Corp. to keep all of their television stations; both had exceeded the 35% cap because of mergers and acquisitions.

NAB President Edward O. Fritts declined comment.

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