Congressmen to FCC: Hold that cap

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Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and other key members of the House and Senate oppose "any effort to increase the national broadcast ownership cap," they wrote to all five FCC commissioners in a letter sent late June.

"Two of the hallmark principles of the Communications Act are localism and diversity, and our uniquely American form of broadcasting, with its combination of national networks and local, independently-owned and -operated broadcast outlets, reflects these core principles," they wrote. Besides lead writers Hollings and Dingell, other lawmakers signing the letter were Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee ranking member Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) and Rep. Bob Burr (R-N.C.).

The lawmakers are backing the position of independently-owned network affiliates who do not want broadcast networks to be able to own more stations than reach 35% of U.S. households. The National Affiliated Stations Alliance is asking the FCC to take action against the broadcast networks for alleged violations of the commission's network-affiliate rules.

"We think that recent controversy regarding the scope of the networks' power even under the current regulatory regime underscores the notion that retention of the 35% national television ownership cap remains essential to prevent potential abuses," the lawmakers wrote.

Meanwhile, the broadcast networks are pushing hard to increase that cap, and hope that lawsuits pending at the U.S. District Court of Appeals will strike it down as unconstitutional. - Paige Albiniak

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