Chicago -- Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) predicted Monday that a bill curbing
the audience reach of the four major broadcast networks would pass the Senate
Commerce Committee, but he was less certain about full Senate passage.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Fritz Hollings
(D-S.C.), would limit a TV-station group from reaching more than 35% of TV
On June 2, a politically divided Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2
to raise the cap to 45% from 35%, handing a victory to Viacom Inc. and News
Burns, after addressing a National Show luncheon audience here, indicated
support for the position that a cap higher than 35% would allow network
domination by CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox over their affiliates.
"It's market muscle and, right now, we've got a lot of our customers saying
out there, `There's too much concentration,'" said Burns, chairman of the Senate
Communications Subcommittee. "I know what that's like because we have it in the
Asked whether the Stevens-Hollings bill would make it out of committee, Burns
told reporters, "I think it will." Regarding full Senate passage, "That I don't
know," he added.
Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who opposes the 35%
bill, promised to let the measure come up for a vote at the panel's June 19
meeting to consider pending legislation.
Joining Burns at the luncheon was Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the
Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Upton praised the cable
industry for rolling out new services and addressing customer-relations
"You've done a great job at cleaning up the act," Upton said.
Upton has worked closely with House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman
Billy Tauzin (R-La.) on proposed legislation intended to expedite the transition
to digital-only television. Upton said he expected talks with various industry
players to start to pick up steam in July.
"I think we'd all like to have legislation not come out on the transition to
digital," Upton said, adding that the talks with industry have helped to move
things along. "We're a heck of a lot further along than we were a few years