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Senate Debates FCC Veto - Broadcasting & Cable

Senate Debates FCC Veto

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The Senate Thursday opened debate on a resolution to undo the Federal
Communications Commission’s broadcast deregulation.

A vote on the so-called legislative veto is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Supporters of the measure said they like their chances despite having secured
only 35 of the 51 votes needed for passage.

"We feel good," Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) told reporters shortly before
debate opened on the Senate floor.

If enacted, the resolution would force the FCC to redo its broadcast-ownership
rules for the third time in four years.

The measure is sponsored by Sens. Dorgan, Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Trent
Lott (R-Miss.).

"We are committed to seeing this thing through," Lott said. "This is not a
partisan thing."

The White House has threatened a veto, and House leaders appear unwilling to
let any companion measure come to a vote on their side.

Dorgan led off the debate with a passionate attack on the FCC's June 2
decision to raise the national TV-ownership cap to 45% of television households
and to relax local limits on broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership and TV
duopolies.

"This rule opens the gates to massive additional concentration," he said.

Leading the fight against the measure is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the
Commerce Committee and backer of a separate bill that would reinstate the
previous 35% cap on national TV-household reach and other restrictions.

"I share many of the same concerns, but to reject the FCC without further
guidance is not appropriate," he said on the Senate floor. McCain also said
lawmakers were wrong to blame FCC chairman Michael Powell, adding that he was only
following directives from Congress and the courts.

"This is a direct result of the direction given by Congress" in the 1996
Telecommunications Act, he said. Congress should not leave others responsible
"for the actions that set this train in motion."

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