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WILL OWNERSHIP RULES BE POLITICAL PAWN?

While it took the media business 3276 miles to see a reaction to last Monday's ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that loosened a variety of media ownership rules, it only took politics about 5000 feet (as the crow flies).

It's about 5000 feet between the FCC's offices on 12th St. SW, in Washington, and the U.S. Capitol, and on Capitol Hill the reactions were immediate and loud.

U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., told the press he planned to use his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to cut funding to the FCC so that it can't enforce the rules that were passed.

"Everybody's on notice now," Hollings told his hometown newspaper, The State of Columbia, S.C. "If need be, yes, there could be [an addition to] the appropriations bill that no money be expended by the FCC to administer the Powell rule."

FCC Chairman Powell and the majority of the commission that voted for the rules-change -- all Republicans -- fared no better with the head of the Senate Commerce Committee. "I've gone from a total deregulator to a person who is very concerned," said U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "I just don't know where the line is and that's why we need to have more hearings and more contemplation of this issue," the senator told reporters outside the Senate chamber on Monday.

By Wednesday, McCain had hauled all the members of the commission before his committee, where they were grilled for five hours by senators.

"It looks for all the world like you could not or would not stand up to corporate interests," Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., was quoted by the Washington Post as saying.

While most of the other senators focused on the specific issues of the market reach of broadcasters, Dorgan said that he planned to offer an amendment to a bill that has been introduced by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, that would return the limit for one company to own TV stations that reach no more than 35 percent of all U.S. households. Dorgan's amendment would specifically reinstate the ban on newspaper-TV common ownership in the same market.

Observers suggested that while a bipartisan group of senators opposed the ruling, legislation would have a difficult time passing the House, where McCain counterpart, Rep. W.J. Tauzin, R-La., has been a vocal supporter of loosening of media ownership rules.

There's a reason that the executive branch and the legislative branch are separate in this country. I believe it was that famous one-time newspaperman Samuel Langhorne Clements who once wrote, "Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
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Publication:NewsInc
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 9, 2003
Words:446
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