Nets muddied as 'clean' 35% passes


The full House Appropriations Committee has voted 40-25 to approve a "clean"
rollback to 35% of the cap on one media group's ownership of TV stations.

That vote came after impassioned bipartisan attacks on the media for what
lawmakers said was a decline in localism and a rise in sleazy programming.

The amendment -- to a funding bill for the Federal Communications Commission
(as well as for the Commerce, Justice and State departments) -- was sponsored by
Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), the committee's ranking Democrat.

From here, the bill goes to a vote on the house floor, but the administration
is said to oppose the amendment and lawmakers said Wednesday that the White
House will likely veto it.

At press time, the vote on the entire funding bill was still being

If the FCC's June 2 decision to increase the cap to 45% is allowed to stand,
Obey said, "We're in danger of shutting off the blood supply of democracy and we
are threatening local community standards."

Obey would prefer rolling back some of the FCC's other June 2 deregulatory
moves, but he said the clean bill is the only way it won't get bogged down.
That's because the more amendments get attached to the bill, the greater chance it will attract more enemies and lose votes necessary for a majority on the House floor and to override a White House veto.

The vote is a victory for the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance, which
backed the rollback, and a defeat for the major networks, which opposed it.

It was something of both for the National Association of Broadcasters, which
wants the clean 35% rollback Obey envisions but withdrew its support for the
bill fearing that it would eventually be loaded down with other reregulatory

The amendment was supported by Republican Frank Wolf of Virginia, chairman of
the subcommittee with oversight over FCC funding.

Wolf said he was convinced to support it by such examples as NBC's initial
decision to run liquor ads, what he said was the networks' lack of coverage of
famine in Ethiopia and the prevalence of shows like The Bachelor, The
and Joe Millionaire.

Then there was his press conference to draw attention to the problem of
prison rape. Wolf said only two media outlets showed up: the Richmond
(Va.) Times-Dispatch and Christianity Today.

Regarding the potential for a White House veto, Wolf said, "I did not get
elected to be a potted plant, and I don't care what the White House thinks."

Republican John Culberson from Texas, responding to Wolf's criticism,
suggested that the networks were programming to their audience, saying,
"Unfortunately, if you put a great report about the situation in Ethiopia
against some sleazy program, I'm sorry, but the other program is going to