B’casters send mixed messages


On the eve of a House Appropriations Subcommittee vote on a back-door approach
to reinstating the 35% cap on TV-household reach and possibly other rules, the
panel is getting mixed messages from broadcasters.

The National Association of Broadcasters, ostensibly the voice of non-network-TV owners, warned Appropriations Committee leaders in a letter that riders to
Federal Communications Commission funding legislation scheduled for a vote Wednesday that would back the cap
to 35% "would open the window for a whole host of anti-broadcast proposals."

At the same time, the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance -- made up mostly of
NAB members -- urged the Appropriations panel to reinstate the 35% cap so the
networks will not "gain effective control over our nation's free, over-the-air
television service."

The NAB wouldn’t comment on the conflicting messages other than to point out that
the group’s new opposition to rollback legislation makes sense in an environment
where other provisions, such as a ban on local broadcast/newspaper
cross-ownership, have a good chance of winning, too.

Some lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill are planning to use FCC
appropriations as one route toward reversing the FCC's June 2 decision to relax
broadcast-ownership rules.

Regarding Wednesday’s vote, Appropriations Committee chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.)
opposes attachments of broadcast-ownership riders, but ranking Democrat David
Obey (Wisconsin) favors the approach.

Other routes of opposition are being planned.

Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) Tuesday unveiled their
"legislative veto" petition, signed by 32 other senators.

The little-used tactic would allow Congress to nullify the June 2 FCC vote.

Separately, Democratic FCC commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein
called on agency chairman Michael Powell to suspend the rules' effective date to
allow for public comment and expedited review of reconsideration petitions.

Already, the Senate Commerce Committee has approved a bill to reinstate the
35% cap, to ban local broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership, to force some radio-station
divestitures and to impose other restrictions.