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Free Press Pushes for Media-Ownership Oversight Hearing

It looks like it could be 2003 all over again: Free Press sent out an e-mail Thursday evening to its 350,000 members trying to muster opposition to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin's efforts to vote on revised media-ownership rules by the end of the year.

Specifically, it is e-mailing a link to an online form that will allow surfers to send a form letter to their congressman calling for oversight hearings on media ownership. The e-mail is part of a larger effort by to block further broadcast deregulation.

"Tell Congress to stop the FCC before it's too late," the e-mail said.

The letter may not be necessary, however. Senate Commerce Committee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) already said he would schedule a hearing after he learned of the plan during a digital-TV-transition hearing last week.

The FCC, under a previous chairman, attempted to revise its rules back in 2003 to allow owners to control more stations in a single market and to allow for newspaper and TV-station ownership in the same market. It passed the rules 3-2, with then-commissioner Martin voting in the majority, but anti-consolidation groups flooded the commission and Congress with e-mails and took the rules to court, where they were remanded for better justification -- a justification Martin wants to complete by mid-December.