The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to vote June 19 on a bill that
would overturn the Federal Communications Commission's decision to allow ABC,
NBC, CBS and Fox to acquire additional local TV stations.
"There is no reason why I shouldn't allow it to be marked up and voted up or
down by the committee," McCain told reporters Wednesday, adding that he would
not support the legislation.
On Monday, the GOP-controlled FCC voted 3-2 to allow a single TV-station
group to reach 45% of TV households with its off-air signals, up from the
current 35% level that the National Association of Broadcasters fought to
preserve at the commission.
All five FCC members testified before McCain's panel Wednesday for nearly
four hours -- a session that gave FCC chairman Michael Powell a venue to explain
his deregulatory moves and gave several angry senators a forum to vent their
frustration with the action.
Sens. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) are sponsoring the
bill to restore the 35% cap. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy
Tauzin (R-La.) said Tuesday that he opposed identical House legislation.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said he planned to offer amendments that would gut
the FCC's decision in the same ruling to allow TV stations and newspapers to
combine in the same market.
A broadcasting lobbyist said Dorgan was also considering an amendment that
would require cable companies that own programming networks to give
nondiscriminatory treatment to unaffiliated networks -- a proposal floated last
month by Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network chairman and CEO Leo J.
Dorgan's office could not confirm the cable amendment, and a YES spokesman
said Hindery had not spoken with Dorgan since May 6, when he testified before
McCain said he expects several amendments to roll back the FCC's decision,
but he had not made up his mind whether to support any.
He would not predict whether the 35% bill would pass the committee. "I
haven't got the full count. But the sentiment of the committee is clearly of
significant concern," he added.
NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said the group's board would meet next Tuesday
and Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to consider supporting the Hollings-Stevens
"Our position is that we support the 35% cap," Wharton said.
The FCC is required to review its broadcast-ownership rules every two years.
McCain said the two-year cycle appeared to be too frequent, and he wanted to
study whether it should be changed to five years.