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Legislators Take Aim at FCC Localism Proposals

The National Association of Broadcasters got support Wednesday in its fight against proposed new localism obligations.

More than 120 legislators signed onto a letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin asking him not to impose any localism mandates on broadcasters.

A copy of the letter was released by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), but included Democrats, as well.

The letter said the FCC is considering a "radical reregulation" of broadcasting and takes aim at FCC proposals to create community-advisory boards, to require broadcasters to report on programmning in a variety of categories and to locate their studios in their community of license and have their stations staffed at all times.

The FCC proposals were part of the commission's attempt to wrap up its media-ownership rules by loosening the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban while proposing steps to boost minority and women ownership and increase broadcasters' obligations to outline their efforts to service the local communities.

But the legislators argued that creating the boards and program lists would add unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, create constitutional problems -- a point also raised by Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell -- and burden broadcasters with requirements not imposed on cable, satellite, or the Internet.

They told Martin they appreciated the FCC's "attempts" to boost localism but said the methods were wrong. "Any approach to regulate media that violates constitutional principles or unnecessarily burdens the industry when other, less burdensome methods are available should be discarded," they wrote.