Senate Panel Votes to Nullify New Media-Ownership Rule

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A Senate committee voted yesterday to nullify a recently approved Federal Communications Commission rule that allows media companies to own a newspaper and a television station in the same market.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a resolution that would roll back the rule, despite promises of a veto from the White House.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said the resolution, S.J. 28, was meant to combat ?galloping concentration? in the media.

When the FCC approved the rule late last year, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin described it as a ?relatively minor loosening? of broadcast media-ownership restrictions. The rule, which was approved by the FCC on a 3-2 party-line vote, allows one company to own a newspaper and one radio or TV station in the same market.

Such a combination is allowable only in one of the 20 largest metropolitan areas. The TV station may not be among the top four in the market, and post-transaction, at least eight independent media voices must remain.

Both Democrats on the FCC opposed the rule, which replaced an outright ban on cross-ownership.

The Senate panel?s action took place as Rupert Murdoch?s News Corp. reportedly reached a tentative deal to buy Chicago-based Tribune Co.-owned Newsday in New York. News Corp. owns two television stations in New York City as well as the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Martin has said any exception to the media ownership rule would face a ?very high hurdle.?

The House is also considering a nullification of the ownership rule, but even if supporters are successful, it appears headed for defeat as long as President Bush is in the White House.

On April 1, Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez wrote Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, saying the administration ?strongly opposes any attempt to overturn these rules by legislative means? and that if the resolution were presented to the president, ?his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.?

Gutierrez defended the FCC?s action saying the FCC order ?modernizes outdated media ownership regulations to appropriately take into account the plethora of news and information outlets that exist today.?

The Senate resolution has 25 co-sponsors including both Democratic candidates for president, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

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