House Might Vote to Block FCC

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Two House lawmakers are trying to block legislation that would bar the
Federal Communications Commission from relaxing media-ownership rules.

House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and
the panel's top Democrat, John Dingell of Michigan, said the effort against the
FCC was 'unwise policy regardless of which side of the underlying issue you may
be on.'

Tauzin and Dingell said Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) is considering adding the
restriction to the FCC's budget, which is expected to come up for a vote in the
House this week.

FCC chairman Michael Powell -- an opponent of keeping ownership rules if they
are clearly outdated -- is expected to review numerous media rules, including
bans on the common ownership of TV stations and cable systems and newspapers and
broadcast properties in the same market.

The agency might also address the rule that caps TV-station owners at 35
percent of U.S. households.

Tauzin and Dingell said the 35 percent cap is being litigated. If the court
overturns the cap and remands the case to the FCC, the Obey amendment could
backfire because the FCC would be handcuffed to address the court's ruling.

'In the meantime, there would be no limit on the number of stations that a
single company could own not because that is necessarily the right policy
outcome, but because the expert agency would be blocked from doing its job,'
Tauzin and Dingell said in a July 16 letter to all House colleagues.

In the letter, Tauzin and Dingell noted that they disagree on whether the FCC
should relax certain rules. But they said they agree that Congress should not
restrict the FCC's authority in this area in the manner proposed by