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By Peter Kaplan
WASHINGTON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. senators threatened on Monday to override the Federal Communications Commission if the agency votes to loosen media ownership restrictions at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
A group of 25 senators said they sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, warning they would “move legislation to revoke the rule and nullify the vote” if the FCC goes ahead with the media ownership rule changes.
The group, including Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, and the panel’s top Republican, Ted Stevens of Alaska, said the FCC had not spent enough time studying the issue and seeking input from the public.
The senators accused Martin of ignoring the public’s right “to play a constructive role” in the decision.
The warning came one day before the FCC’s five commissioners were expected to vote on a plan by Martin that would lift ownership restrictions in the 20 biggest U.S. cities.
Martin’s proposed changes have drawn objections from consumer groups and some lawmakers in Congress, as well as the FCC’s two Democratic commissioners.
Existing FCC rules ban ownership of a newspaper, and a television or radio station in the same market, unless the FCC grants a waiver.
Critics say easing ownership rules will lead to more consolidation in the industry, eliminate independent voices and degrade local news coverage. (Reporting by Peter Kaplan; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)