- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Members of Congress yesterday promised to try to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s new rules on media ownership, while Democratic presidential candidates saw an issue they can use against President Bush in the 2004 elections.

“This decision stands logic on its head,” said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat. “It’s a decision that says, ‘We favor concentration over competition.’ It’s a decision that says, ‘We don’t care anything about diversity or localism.’”

The Republican-controlled FCC voted 3-2 to allow a single company to own television stations that cover 45 percent of American households, up from the current 35 percent. And the commission relaxed rules to allow ownership of newspapers and television stations or multiple stations in the same market.

But lawmakers from both parties said there is strong opposition.

“There is not a partisan position here,” said Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican. “In fact, probably most of the Republicans in the Congress would not agree with this decision.”

They are introducing a resolution of disapproval, in essence a congressional veto, of the regulations. If passed, it will overturn the regulations.

And there are several other options, too.

Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, has a bill already pending before a committee that would hold the ownership line at 35 percent, and yesterday he said the bill has enough support to pass if a vote is allowed. He said senators may also try to attach a provision to a spending bill.

But key Republican leaders in the House praised the FCC’s action.

“In large part, the FCC has finally done what both Congress and the courts have asked it to do, and our free-speech society needs it to do,” said Rep. Billy Tauzin, Louisiana Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “The FCC, in effect, has taken a big step toward removing the regulatory muzzle from American broadcasters.”

And a spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said Congress is unlikely to pass a resolution of disapproval.

“The likelihood of Congress overturning what the FCC has done is very slim, since the FCC is simply acting on the authority Congress has given them,” Stuart Roy said.

Meanwhile some of the candidates running for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination took swipes at the Bush administration for pushing the changes.

“The decision by President Bush’s allies on the FCC exemplifies everything that is wrong with this administration,” said Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, who said the ruling could change the “distinctive local accent” of North Carolina stations that broadcast Billy Graham crusades and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball and football games.

And Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, said Mr. Bush has “done a grave injustice.”

“President Bush should stop ignoring the needs of the American people in order to enrich the pockets of a privileged few,” he said.

But Mr. Roy said Democrats’ protests boil down to their opposition to some media owners, like Fox’s Rupert Murdoch.

“The Democrats, at least on a partisan basis, would not care about this issue except for their complete hatred of any news outlet that treats the conservative viewpoint as legitimate,” the DeLay spokesman said.

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