CONGRESS WRANGLES OVER UPCOMING FCC VOTE

Legislation Proposed to Block Some Media Ownership Rule Changes

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Members of Congress wrangled today over the Federal Communication Commission's upcoming vote on its new rules easing media ownership.

U.S. Reps. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and John Dingell, D-Mich., and Sens. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-N.C., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, sponsored legislation in their respective houses of Congress that would keep the current FCC rule prohibiting on any one broadcaster from reaching more than 35% of all U.S. TV households.

GOP leaders
Reaction to the legislation, which was introduced several weeks ago, came down today as Republican leadership looked to prevent any attempts to block the FCC rules changes.

The FCC is expected to increase the limit to 45%. A discount for UHF station's reach means media companies can actually reach a greater percentage of those households.

Opposition
U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, urged fellow congressmen to oppose legislation.

"It prevents the FCC from doing what both Congress and the courts have repeatedly told it to do -- justify its broadcast ownership rules," Rep. Tauzin wrote in a letter. "Do not take away the FCC's ability to do its job. Oppose legislation that ties the FCC's hands and prevents it from ensuring that the laws accurately reflect the realities of the mass media marketplace."

In the Senate, where the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow is due to hear consumer groups and Rupert Murdoch, owner of the media company News Corp., tomorrow discuss the effects the rules would have, Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., today told AdAge.com that he won't take action to stop the FCC from its vote June 2.

Hearing after vote
Some media analysts have suggested there will be a flurry of deals announced after the vote. Instead he said he would hold a hearing asking FCC commissioners asked to explain their decision shortly after their vote.

"We will have the commissioners in right after the recess and then we will assess from there," Sen. McCain said. "I've never blocked consideration of any legislation. If members of the committee want to consider it, we will consider it.

"We could act legislatively," he said. "If the majority of Congress acts legislatively, we can reverse the actions of any agency."

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