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Pondering tax breaks

Despite the switch to a Republican administration, the White House's main arm of telecommunications policy is promising to keep generating ideas for promoting media-ownership diversity.

Nancy Victory, the new head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said last week that promoting diverse media ownership is part of a broader effort to afford "access for all" to telecommunications services, an endeavor heavily promoted by Bill Clinton's Democratic appointees Larry Irving and Greg Rohde.

Victory said the government's role should be to assist industry efforts to bring more minorities into media and telecommunications businesses. "We want private-sector solutions with incentives for investment," she told reporters.

One idea getting her attention is a plan to revive tax breaks for media companies that sell properties to minorities, women and small business. Although a previous "tax-certificate" plan was killed in 1995 because of well-publicized abuses, its revival has bipartisan support. In the last Congress, then-Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain and the House Commerce Committee's ranking Democrat, Charles Rangel, offered versions. FCC Chairman Michael Powell also has been an outspoken fan of the idea.

Victory isn't ready to commit yet and called the plan "one of the things we're looking at."

So far, the Bush administration shows no signs of pushing NTIA into new areas of media scrutiny. The bulk of Victory's duties will be overseeing the government's effort to find room for new broadband services.