WASHINGTON A U.S. senate committee moved a step
closer on Thursday to overturning a decision by regulators that
loosened media ownership restrictions in the 20 biggest U.S.
cities, even as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp moved closer to
expanding media ownership in the New York region.
"We really do literally have five or six major corporations
in this country that determine for the most part what Americans
see, hear and read every day. I don't think that's healthy for
our country," said the bill's chief sponsor, Democratic Sen.
Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
The Senate Commerce Committee voted on Thursday to endorse
a resolution that would nullify rules approved by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) in December that eased a
32-year-old ban on ownership of a newspaper and broadcast
outlet in a single market.
Dorgan expressed concern about further consolidation of the
media, including reports that News Corp was trying to buy
Newsday, a newspaper serving Long Island, New York.
Last December, News Corp bought Dow Jones & Co Inc, thereby
acquiring The Wall Street Journal newspaper based in New York
City. The WSJ is not subject to local ownership restrictions
because it is considered a national newspaper.
News Corp also owns TV stations in the tri-state area (New
York, New Jersey and Connecticut) including WNYW (Fox 5) in New
York City and WWOR (My9), which is based in Northern Jersey but
also serves the New York market.
The company has waivers from the FCC that let it own the
New York Post newspaper, WNYW-TV and WWOR-TV.
Tribune Co is close to a deal to sell Newsday to News Corp
for about $580 million and put Newsday into a joint venture
with News Corp's New York Post, sources familiar with the
matter have said. News Corp likely would have to seek a waiver
of ownership restrictions, even under the FCC's new rules.
Dorgan predicted a resolution disapproving the new
ownership rules would pass both chambers of Congress.
"My hope is that the House and Senate decide that this is a
rule we should veto," Dorgan said.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the House but
has yet to be taken up for a committee vote.
The FCC's Republican chairman, Kevin Martin, has said the
rule was a minimal loosening of the ban aimed at helping
struggling newspapers in big cities by spreading local
news-gathering costs across multiple media platforms.
However, the rule has been sharply criticized by consumer
groups and some lawmakers, as well as by the FCC's two
Critics say further consolidation of the media industry
would eliminate independent voices and degrade local news
They also contend that the FCC rule contains loopholes that
would let media owners combine newspapers and broadcast outlets
in many smaller markets around the United States, not just the
top 20 cities.
The resolution must be passed by both chambers to overturn
the FCC rule.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Toni Reinhold)