Tom Daschle, the Senate’s top Democrat, said Tuesday that he would push for legislation that would tighten limits on media ownership despite conventional wisdom that such controversial bills have no chance in an election year.
Specifically, Daschle told reporters after giving a speech to the NAB State Leadership Conference that he wants a bill would take the cap on a TV group’s national reach below the 39% limit set by Congress in January. He also wants to impose tighter restrictions on crossownershp between TV stations and their local newspapers and radio stations.
"Broadcasting is our public space and it should be as rich and diverse as our nation," he said during the NAB speech.
With the uproar of indecency and the pending elections as a backdrop, Daschle called on broadcasters to reverse a trend towards coarsening programming and election coverage. "Just as we would not want any American to feel unsafe in the national mall it should concern us when Americans feel there are no safe places for families in the broadcast world."
As for the election, he decried the kinds of attack ads used to label 2002 Democratic incumbent senators Tim Johnson and Max Cleland as weak on terrorism and MoveOn.org’s web spot comparing President Bush to Hitler.
"There are lines that should not be crossed regardless of the advantage it gives to either party," he said.
Despite his plea for gentler rhetoric, the South Dakota senator used his pulpit to take a swipe at Fox News for what he sees as pro-war reporting from Iraq. "Broadcast journalists need to live up to their role as watchdogs. Some news organizations do not agree," he asserted. "One report shows Fox News viewers have more misperceptions about the Iraq war than viewers of any other network."