Senate to Review Media Ownership

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Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ernest (Fritz) Hollings has tentatively
set July 17 as the date for a hearing on a pair of federal media-ownership
rules, sources said Monday.

The hearing is likely to focus on the current Federal Communications
Commission rule that bars a TV-station owner from reaching more than 35 percent
of U.S. TV households.

The 'Big Four' networks want the 35 percent cap relaxed or repealed, and they
are hoping the courts will side with them in a case pending in the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Tentative witnesses include Mel Karmazin, president and chief operating
officer of Viacom Inc., which favors relaxing the 35 percent cap. Karmazin will
likely square off against Alan Frank, president of Post-Newsweek Stations Inc.,
a company that wants to retain the cap.

The Hollings panel is also likely to examine the FCC rule that bars the
common ownership of a broadcast property -- TV or radio -- with a local
newspaper. On this issue, the broadcast industry is united behind the relaxation
or elimination of the rule.

A tentative witness on the broadcast-newspaper rule is Jack W. Fuller,
president of Tribune Publishing Co. Fuller's company supports substantial
relaxation or elimination of the rule.

Consumers Union Washington office co-director Gene Kimmelman is also a
tentative witness. Kimmelman is a strong critic of excessive consolidation in
the mass-media markets, especially cable.

Hollings is a foe of broad deregulation, claiming that media-ownership
diversity is an important public-interest value embedded in communications law
and history.

FCC chairman Michael Powell, viewed as a supporter of deregulation, had
planned to launch a proceeding in May on the broadcast-newspaper ban, but
internal FCC politics sidetracked the plan and it has yet to
resurface.

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