Senate Committee Votes to Re-Impose Media Cross-ownership Ban

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By: E&P Staff

The Commerce Committee sent to the U.S. Senate floor a resolution to nullify changes to the long-time ban on same-market common ownership of a newspaper and a broadcast station.

The resolution targets last December’s FCC vote, along party lines, that permits daily newspapers in the nation’s 20 largest markets to own either one lower-rated TV station or radio station. Cross-ownership would continue to be prohibited in smaller markets. But the many critics of the rule change say it includes exemption provisions that could permit cross-ownership in virtually sized market.

Talking to reporters after the vote, the resolution’s chief sponsor, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.) said he expected the measure to pass the full Senate. The bill has 25 co-sponsors, including both Democratic candidates for president.

The Bush administration has indicated it would veto an attempt to re-impose the 32-year-old ban.

Free Press, the media democracy advocacy group, hailed the panel’s vote, and said the bill was “our best chance to stop Big Media.”

The measure is particularly important in light of reports that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., publisher of The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, as well as the owner of two broadcast stations in the New York City market, has agreed in principle to buy Newsday, the Long Island, N.Y., daily.

“With Rupert Murdoch poised to expand his media empire, today’s vote shows the Senate won’t simply roll over and watch media consolidation continue unchecked,” said Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver said in a statement. “This vote is a major turning point in the fight for better media.”

A House version of the resolution has been introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.).

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