Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's decision to abandon his quest for the White House removed from the Democratic presidential race the most vocal opponent of new Federal Communications Commission media-ownership rules permitting greater common ownership of major media outlets in local markets.
Dean formally bowed out of the race Wednesday, although he said he intends to use his grassroots network to support reform in Washington.
"I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency," Dean told supporters in Burlington, Vt.
With a strong antiestablishment message that included calls for breaking large media conglomerates, Dean caught on early with likely Democratic primary votes and surged to the front of the pack. But he stumbled in Iowa and New Hampshire, losing both contests to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and he never won a primary or caucus he entered.
Dean's demise is good news for media companies that feared conflict with him in the White House. Dean, for instance, favored free TV time for political candidates and opposed allowing one company to own a newspaper and a broadcast property in the same local market.
Last May, Dean wrote FCC chairman Michael Powell, urging him to postpone the June 2 vote on relaxing media-ownership rules, and he later supported legislation designed to roll back the FCC's deregulatory moves.
About six weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Dean appeared on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews and called for the breakup of "giant media enterprises," adding that 11 media firms control 90% of what people read and watch on TV.
Dean argued that media consolidation denied the public access to diverse news and opinion. But his fondness for a dynamic, competitive media went so far: He refused to allow the media access to sealed letters and records from his 11 years as governor.
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