The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday inserted language into an FCC appropriations bill that would prevent the FCC from allowing one broadcaster to own TV stations reaching 45% of the nation's households, up from the current 35%. Because the FCC discounts the reach of UHF stations in calculating the limit, consumer groups have contended that the 45% figure would allow a single company to reach 90% of U.S. households.
News Corp. and Viacom each are already over the limit but have been allowed to hold onto stations pending the new FCC ownership rules. The House inserted similar language into its version of the FCC appropriations bill.
While consumer groups have questioned
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, had proposed the ban, which was added to the appropriations bill with little debate.
Sen. Stevens, however, said he would oppose efforts to overturn the FCC rules. The Senate is expected to vote next week on a "resolution of disapproval" to overturn all the FCC rules.
Consumer groups and some senators today questioned overturning just the one rule.
'Mystified by the inconsistency'
"I continue to be mystified by the inconsistency of separating the national television broadcast ownership cap from the local broadcast limits in legislation -- an action that seems only to serve the members of the National Association of Broadcasters," said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz. He also questioned use of the appropriations process to rewrite communications law.