Sens. Fear Media-Ownership Moves


A bipartisan chorus of U.S. senators Tuesday spoke out in opposition to
relaxation of various broadcast-ownership rules at the Federal Communications

On June 2, the FCC is expected to allow TV-station groups to reach at least
45 percent of TV households, up from 35 percent, and that change has some
lawmakers worried.

Other rules are also expected to be relaxed, making it possible for TV
stations and newspapers to combine in the same market for the first time since

As the vote nears, some lawmakers are clearly nervous that a merger wave
might be afoot.

"I do not believe the 35 percent cap should be lifted at this time," Sen. Ted
Stevens (R-Alaska) said.

"In my judgment, the FCC should not be relaxing the ownership cap," Sen.
Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) added.

The lawmakers spoke out at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, where Viacom
Inc. president and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin said he favored raising
the 35 percent cap to strengthen free, off-air broadcasting in a media world
that Viacom did not dominate.

Karmazin, who fought the effects of a sore throat, said Viacom had $12.5
billion in advertising revenue while the overall advertising market had about
$300 billion. "We are not Microsoft [Corp.] as far as what we have," said
Karmazin, whose company controls 35 TV stations.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) voiced strong support
for requiring FCC chairman Michael Powell and the other four FCC members to
appear before the committee prior to the June 2 vote.

"I think it's critical that we have Michael Powell up here before this
decision is made," Wyden said. Snowe added, "We want a preview."

But panel chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) indicated that he would not
call any FCC member before the committee prior to June 2 because he wanted to
avoid the appearance of pressuring an independent agency.