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Capital Watch

Full-Court Press

CBS, Fox and NBC are trying again to move lawsuits attacking the FCC's new ownership rules from a Philadelphia federal appeals court to a more dereg-friendly one in Washington. A three-judge panel rebuffed their first attempt to move the consolidated cases, so last week they requested a hearing from the full court.

The networks repeated their argument that the D.C. court is the appropriate arena because it has ruled on previous ownership cases and because the latest FCC rules are a result of its order to rewrite previous rules.

The networks have filed suit asking that the new 45% national TV-ownership cap—currently stayed while the court considers challenges—be raised or eliminated. On the other side are activists' bids to reinstate the previous, tighter rules and broadcasters' efforts to relax restrictions on TV duopolies.

Diverse Group

The FCC last week named the members of its new diversity committee, one element of Chairman Michael Powell's effort to address his own diversity concerns as well as to assuage those of critics of his new media-ownership rules.

The committee holds its first meeting Sept. 29 in Washington. The members: Decker Anstrom, Landmark; Andrew Barrett, The Barrett Group (a former FCC commissioner); Matthew Blank, Showtime; Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Women in Cable and Telecommunications; Joan Gerberding, Nassau Radio; Steve Hilliard, Council Tree Communications; Priscilla Hill-Ardoin, SBC; David Honig, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council; Jamie Howard, BigBand Networks; Julia Johnson, NetCommunications; Ginger Lew, Telecommunications Development Fund; Vonya McCann, Sprint; Francisco R. Montero, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth; Terdema Ussery, HDNet; Alex Wallau, ABC TV; Jenny Alonzo, National Association for Multiethnicity in Communications; Riley Temple, Halprin, Temple Goodman; Henry Rivera, Vinson & Elkins (former FCC commissioner), and Roscoe Young II, KMC Telecom.

BIA Boosts Database

Research firm BIA Financial Network has added newspapers to its Media Access Pro database and has integrated its radio and TV databases with the newspaper data to allow for cross-media analysis. Just the sort of thing that would come in handy if the FCC's new ownership rules were ultimately approved.

The move was made, in part, with the FCC's proposed ownership-rule changes in mind but does not hinge on them, according to spokeswoman Haidee Calore.

Among the rules, currently in limbo, was one allowing widespread crossownership of stations and newspapers. Calore said that there had already been increasing client interest in comparing ad-dollar and audience-share performance against other media. The database is designed to be adjusted whichever way the FCC rules come down.

Bush Backs Powell

President George W. Bush last week gave a vote of confidence to embattled FCC Chairman Michael Powell for the agency's recent relaxation of broadcast-ownership rules. "I support what Michael Powell did," Bush said in an interview (above) with Fox News' Brit Hume. "He took a long deliberative look and a lengthy process about what was fair and not fair, and we supported his actions." Bush, however, didn't commit to vetoing congressional legislation that would rewrite all or part of the FCC's new regimen. "There's always a chance before Congress finally acts ... to see if we can come up with an accommodation that meets everybody's interests." White House aides have told Congress they would recommend a veto of legislation now working its way through Capitol Hill that would overturn the FCC's decisions.