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DeMint, Blunt Ask FCC to Repeal Ownership Regs

Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have asked the FCC to repeal its radio and TV station ownership restrictions and newspaper/broadcast and radio/TV cross-ownership restrictions, saying TV and radio stations should not be forced to try to compete in the fast-moving digital age while "strapped with regulations that do not apply to other competitors."

That is a point broadcasters have been making to the FCC for years, and with increasing urgency as the Internet continues to remake the model for video delivery.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the Senators said that an "honest assessment" in the FCC's ongoing media ownership reg review -- mandated by both the courts and Congress -- compels repeal, or at least modification, given the growth of competition, including from the Internet.

They say that ownership regs are antiquated and maintain a structural imbalance that has the practical effect of picking winners and losers rather than providing a fair competitive environment.

"The commission should act proactively now to ensure that legacy audio, print, and video voices are not specifically disadvantaged," they said, echoing DeMint's call for deregulation last month at a Free State Foundation event in Washington.

The FCC tried to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules back in 2007, but caught flak from anti-consolidation forces arguing that any more deregulation was too much, and from broadcasters arguing that not to lift the ban entirely and to leave in place the local market and other cross-ownership restrictions was too little.

Last summer, the Third Circuit remanded that 2007 decision back to the commission for another try, which coincides with its overdue quadrennial review of its regs mandated by Congress.

The FCC is not expected to make any proposals until next year.