Bill limits FCC's ownership rules control

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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and Sens. Bryon Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) late Tuesday night introduced a bill that would limit the FCC's ability to scrap some media ownership rules.

The bill would require the FCC to look at any transaction in which crossownership rules are involved. For example, when Tribune bought Times Mirror last year, a loophole in FCC rules allowed the commission to not look at the license transfers until they came up for renewal, allowing Tribune to own TV stations and newspapers in the same markets without facing FCC review. Under Hollings' bill, the FCC would have to look at the transfers when one company acquired another company with cross-ownership interests. Companies would have to come into compliance with the commission's rules within six months or when the broadcast licenses came up for renewal, whichever came first.

The Newspaper Association of America strongly opposes Hollings' bill. "There is no reasoned basis for the government to make it harder for newspapers to compete against the plethora of media available in print, over the air and via the Internet in every city and town in the country," said NAA President John Sturm in a statement.

The bill also would require the FCC to report to the House and Senate Commerce Committees any possible changes the agency might make in media ownership rules and explain the public interest reason for making the change. Once the report was filed, the FCC wouldn't be able to make an official change for 18 months. - Paige Albiniak

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