Rule changes anger some in Senate


Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) led off a host of critics angered by the new
broadcast-ownership rules approved Monday by the Federal Communications
Commission's Republican majority.

"What they've done is turn a public-interest commission into an instrument of
corporate greed," he said during a hearing on the FCC's
new broadcast-ownership rules.

Besides raising the cap on national TV-household reach, the rules permit
triopolies and allow more TV duopolies and cross-ownership of radio, TV and
newspaper properties in a local market.

Opponents of the FCC's action said the resulting increase in media
concentration will give a handful of conglomerates a lock on news, public
affairs and entertainment programming across the country.

"The FCC decision rings the dinner bell for the big media conglomerates who
are salivating to make a meal out of the nation's many small media companies,"
complained Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden.

North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan predicted that the "wrongheaded and
destructive" changes will lead to "an orgy of mergers and acquisitions."

In her home state, "people are up in arms over this," said Sen. Barbara
Boxer (D-Calif.).

Even Republicans were critical of various portions.

Sens. Ted Stevens (Alaska), Trent Lott (Mississippi), Conrad Burns (Montana) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) said they would
fight to reinstate the 35% cap on ownership.

"I don't believe the 1996 [Telecommunications Act] or the court's decision
preordained what happened here," Snowe said, countering FCC chairman Michael
Powell's contention that the FCC had little choice but to deregulate.

The FCC decision did have some backers, including Nevada Republican John
Ensign, who called the changes "minor tinkering."

Others supporting the FCC were Sens. Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois (R) and John
Sununu of New Hampshire (R).