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Inouye to Hold December Media-Ownerhip Hearing with FCC

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin got hammered Thursday for his plan to try to wrap up the media-ownership rule review and vote on it by December as the FCC and its boss, Congress, appeared headed for a showdown.

That came in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Thursday on media ownership, localism and diversity heavily weighted with media critics.

The hearing was called by Committee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) after media-consolidation critic Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and others got wind of Martin's plan.

Inouye said he met with Martin Wednesday and stressed that a rush to judgment before the end of the year would be a serious mistake. To put a finer point on his concern, Inouye added that he was going to schedule a hearing for mid-December -- around Dec. 13, he said -- with members of the FCC. Thursday's hearing did not include any FCC members.

Inouye said that should give the FCC enough time to "listen to our voices," adding, "I hope they will make the right decision." That hearing scheduling also appears calculated to interrupt Martin's planned timetable, since he reportedly wanted the ownership issues resolved and a vote on new rules by Dec. 18.

Dorgan -- who also said Thursday that he is introducing a bill to block that timetable -- said he talked with Martin, as well, and the chairman said there needs to be more concentraion, including cross-ownership. "I think that is a horrible idea," he added.

"Reverse this disastrous course," said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, saying that consolidation had hurt minorities.