FCC-reauthorization bill threatened

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A Senate Commerce Committee plan to approve Federal Communications Commission-reauthorization legislation Thursday is being loaded up with anti-deregulation
amendments and other measures broadcasters oppose.

Besides a plan by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) to eliminate the discount for
tallying UHF-station reach toward national ownership caps, other controversial
amendments are sure to spark intense industry lobbying against the bill.

Reauthorization was initially viewed as committee chairman John McCain's (R-Ariz.)
vehicle for less controversial measures than those included in a deregulation
rollback approved by his committee last week.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) plans a measure requiring local programming to be a
requirement for license renewals. From Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.): Public-interest programming would have to be quantified in broadcasters' renewal
applications and outside parties' right to challenge license renewals would be
reaffirmed.

Besides the bill's provision for increasing indecency fines, Sen. Ernest
Hollings (D-S.C.) would allow on-air personalities to be fined, and not just
station owners.

McCain would require the FCC to speed reviews of political advertising
complaints.

Republican Sens. Conrad Burns (Montana) and John Sununu (New Hampshire) would order the FCC to
issue spectrum free-of-charge to licensees planning to launch a terrestrial microwave
competitor to direct-broadcast satellite.

If included in the bill -- which also includes the widely supported plan to
extended the time between FCC media-ownership reviews to five years -- the more
controversial measures may jeopardize prospects for passage.

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