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(July 17, 2001) -- The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee today warned about further media consolidation as Viacom's president-chief operating officer and some senators defended it.

Committee chairman Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., said he was worried that the nation's broadcasting system that emphasizes diversity in ownership and viewpoints and promotes choices for advertisers was under attack.

The committee is examining attempts to lift limits on broadcast companies' reach and is also considering newspaper publsihers' complaints about limits on cross-ownership.

Viacom's Mel Karmazin, whose company is hoping to alter the current cap on any single broadcaster reaching 35% of the audience, said competition has changed drastically since the limit was established and it no longer makes sense.

"In order for us to be able to compete, we need changes to have a fair seat at the table," he said.

Sen. Hollings said he intends to offer legislation to require that any changes implemented by the Federal Communications Commission get congressional approval. -- Ira Teinowitz

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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