Although he personally opposes a rewrite of the Federal Communications
Commission's new broadcast-ownership rules, Senate Commerce Committee chairman
John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that he will preside over a June 19 committee vote to
reinstate the 35% cap on one company's TV-household reach.
The proposal is backed by key leaders of his committee including ranking
Democrat Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) and Republicans Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
McCain said he would push for alternatives to the plan, such as keeping the
commission's new 45% limit but rewriting a law that requires the FCC to review
media-ownership rules every two years.
Legislation resulting from the committee's vote would then move to the full
Senate, where prospects are somewhat less certain, then on to the House.
McCain said he would offer his own amendments retaining the new rules but
changing the standard for future FCC rule reviews.
Amendments from other committee members would also be put to a vote.
Under questioning by McCain, all five FCC commissioners said the two-year
review cycle that mandated the latest changes is too burdensome and asked
lawmakers to give them more authority to tighten ownership rules.
Right now, the biennial-review mandate is interpreted by many to favor
loosening of the rules rather than any direction the commission deems necessary.
"These issues need to be addressed," McCain said during a hearing on
ownership changes approved by the FCC Monday.
McCain admonished the Hollings-Stevens-Lott triumvirate for threatening to
use the generally disapproved of step of rewriting the FCC rules by attaching a rider
to appropriations bills or using a "legislative veto."
Nevertheless, Hollings said he would exercise all options if stand-alone
"I would still attempt to do it because I believe it's that serious a
problem," Hollings said.
On the House side, Telecommunications Subcommittee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is
planning a hearing on the new rules soon.
House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), however, has
predicted that reimposition of the 35% cap would face a tough fight in the
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