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SENATE ATTEMPTS TO REVERSE FCC RULINGS.

In an interesting switch of roles, the U.S. Senate \-- theoretically the more deliberative chamber of the legislative branch -- last week gave every indication that it would pass legislation to reverse the broadcast cross-ownership rules overturned by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month, while the U.S. House of Representatives -- usually the more reactionary chamber -- basically said it would stop any such legislation dead in its tracks.

The Senate Commerce Committee passed legislation last Thursday to reinstate limits on the ownership of broadcasting properties and the ability for companies to own broadcasters and newspapers in the same market. In one instance, the bill actually rolls back a 1996 rule that allows one company to own a large number of radio stations in a single market.

The bipartisan nature of the passage of the bill out of committee would indicate that there will be no problem gaining full Senate approval.

Rep. W.J. Tauzin, R-La., the chairman of the House Commerce Committee has indicated repeatedly that his is in favor of broadcast deregulation and last week told his colleagues it wouldn't be a good idea to sponsor the Senate bill in the House.

"We have absolutely no intention of taking up the Senate bill," Tauzin's spokesman, Ken Johnson, told Dow Jones Newswires. "Unfortunately, this has become a political soap opera, and given a chance, Chairman Tauzin intends to cancel its run."

The Senate bill was amended by Sen. Ted Stevens, R.-Alaska, to allow state regulators the ability to approve newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership if they find it "will enhance local news and information, promote the financial stability of a newspaper, radio station or television station, or otherwise promote the public interest."

John Sturm, president of the Newspaper Association of America, told the Associated Press that newspapers were disappointed with the committee's vote and that "there will certainly be a very determined effort by the industry to get the government off the backs of newspapers once and for all."

Don't underestimate Bill Tauzin's ability to derail this knee-jerk legislation. But then, don't underestimate a U.S. Senator's ability to grandstand.
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Publication:NewsInc
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 23, 2003
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