WASHINGTON A Democratic U.S. senator said he
would introduce bipartisan legislation on Thursday that would
impose a 90-day delay on an impending Federal Communications
Commission decision on whether to ease rules governing media
Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said the bill would
require the FCC to study the issue for at least 90 more days,
and he reiterated past criticism that the agency has not gone
far enough to publicly discuss the issue.
"We need to get this right," Dorgan said.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin recently said he wants the agency
to wrap up its examination of media ownership and reach a
decision by December 18 on whether to ease limits on how many
media outlets a company may own in a single market.
Dorgan's comments on Thursday came during a hearing of the
Senate Commerce Committee designed to air concerns about media
ownership rule changes.
Dorgan said he was "certain" that Martin would propose to
lift restrictions on cross-ownership between newspapers and
radio and television stations.
Martin has not proposed exactly what to do about the
ownership limits. But Dorgan said on Thursday that the chairman
has told him that further consolidation in the media is
Dorgan said his bill would be backed by other Democrats, as
well as Republicans Trent Lott of Mississippi and Olympia Snowe
Consumer groups and Democrats on the FCC have expressed
reservations about easing ownership rules, fearing that more
consolidation in the industry would eliminate independent
voices and degrade local news coverage.
Long-standing FCC rules restrict media cross-ownership and
ban ownership of a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the
same market, unless the FCC grants a waiver.
If cross-ownership limits were eased or lifted, it could
help some investors, such as real estate tycoon Sam Zell, who
is leading a proposed leveraged buy-out of media group Tribune
Co. Zell wants the FCC to reaffirm waivers that allow Tribune
to cross-own daily newspapers and broadcast outlets in some
(Reporting by Peter Kaplan; editing by Lisa Von Ahn and
Gerald E. McCormick)