Lawmakers Press FCC on Media Rules

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A group of 11 Capitol Hill lawmakers, led by House Energy and Commerce Committee
chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), is pressuring the Federal Communications
Commission to relax broadcast-ownership rules before June.

"Permitting this important proceeding to slip into summer or fall will not
make the issues involved any easier to resolve," the lawmakers said in a March
28 letter to FCC chairman Michael Powell that Tauzin's office released
Tuesday.

Without stating specifically how ownership rules should be changed, the
letter strongly indicated support for relaxation.

"In our view, the [FCC] ownership restrictions are outdated. It is time for
the [FCC] to amend all of its broadcast-ownership rules and bring them into
alignment with the realities of today's media marketplace," the letter said.

Last week, Powell said he wanted to wrap up the ownership proceeding by June
2.

At issue are six rules, including one that bans the common ownership of a
daily newspaper and a broadcast property (TV or radio) in the same market; one
that bars a TV-station owner from reaching more than 35 percent of TV households
nationally; one that prohibits CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox from combining at the
network level; and one that bars the ownership of two TV stations in the same
market if fewer than eight independently owned stations would remain.

In addition to Tauzin, the letter to Powell was signed by Reps. Roy Blunt
(R-Mo.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.), Mary Bono (R-Calif.),
George Radanovich (R-Calif.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas); and Sens. John Breaux
(D-La.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), John Ensign (R-Nev.) and George Allen
(R-Va.).

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