Congress heading toward White House clash

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Congress Thursday stepped closer to a possible confrontation with the
president over media concentration after the Senate Appropriations Committee
voted to reinstate the 35% cap on one company's TV-household reach.

The provision -- tucked into a funding bill for the Federal Communications
Commission and the Commerce, Justice and State Departments -- mirrors one passed by the
House in July that Bush administration aides threatened to veto.

The Senate bill must now go to the floor for a vote by the full Senate. Then its differences with the House version must be rectified in a conference with
congressional leaders before heading to the White House for the president's
signature.

Although a stay of a Federal Communications Commission decision to lift the cap to 45% and relax other
broadcast-ownership restrictions was issued by federal judges the day before,
Capitol aides said Congress needs to move forward on a separate track in case the
networks appeal the stay and win.

The appropriations measure would be in effect only for fiscal-year 2004 and would
need to be renewed next year to remain law.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said he planned to fight for an amendment on the
Senate floor that would also ban local broadcast/newspaper
cross-ownership.

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