Ill. Lawmakers Seek Quick Tribune Action

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Washington— A majority of the Illinois congressional delegation — but not the state’s junior senator, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama — signed a letter urging swift action by the Federal Communications Commission on temporary media-ownership waivers sought by Chicago-based Tribune Co.

“We believe that prompt consideration of the merits of Tribune Co.’s applications is the public interest and would be very grateful if you would give this matter your personal attention and act upon these applications in a timely fashion,” the letter, signed by 14 of the state’s 21 members of Congress, said.

Real-estate mogul Sam Zell has engineered an $8.2 billion deal to take control of Tribune, which owns 23 TV stations and many big-city newspapers. FCC rules ban the common ownership of a daily newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same local market.

On May 1, Tribune asked the FCC for waivers from the newspaper-broadcast rule with regard to five markets where it conflicts with FCC policy: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Hartford, Conn., and Ft. Lauderdale-Miami. The company asked that the waivers to remain in effect while the FCC continue its review of a batch of media ownership rules.

“Given the fact that the FCC is in the midst of a potentially lengthy rule-making process on the issue of cross-media ownership, we encourage the [FCC] to act on these applications expeditiously and to avoid administrative delay,” the Illinois lawmakers said.

Besides Obama, six Illinois lawmakers — five of them Chicago-area Democrats — didn’t sign.

The letter avoided language that called on the FCC to grant Tribune’s waivers, but such letters that call for quick bureaucratic action and personal involvement of the chairman tend to suggest support for the applicant’s position.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) signed the letter, even though he voted in September 2003 for a Senate resolution intended to reverse the FCC’s decision three months earlier to abolish the newspaper-broadcast rule.