Senate Launches Fight To Re-Impose Strict Media Cross-Ownership Ban

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

The congressional campaign to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) loosening of the ban on cross-ownership of newspaper and broadcast — an effort supported by presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — gets underway in earnest Tuesday afternoon.

The Senate Commerce Committee scheduled an executive session to consider legislation by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D.-N.D., that would re-impose the former strict ban on same-market cross-ownership of a newspaper and radio or television station.

Senate Joint Resolution 28 is co-sponsored by 13 other senators, including Clinton, Obama, and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

The resolution targets last December’s FCC vote, along partisan 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.

In a press conference last fall, Dorgan said this about cross-ownership: “It’s clear the concentration of media ownership that has already taken place has not been good for our country…In a democracy, making sure that citizens are able to get news and information from a variety of independently owned sources is crucial. We already have too much concentration of media ownership.”

Dorgan’s “resolution of disapproval” faces an uphill battle, though it is expected to be voted out of committee. Should it pass both houses of Congress, President George W. Bush is virtually certain to veto it.

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