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Senators want answers on media consolidation

Three powerful lawmakers are calling on the Federal Communications Commission
to investigate how media consolidation is affecting access to programming.

Sens. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)
want the FCC to complete an independent investigation by the end of the year or
before the FCC acts to change any media-ownership rules, whichever comes first.

"Diversity of voices and opinions are vital to competition as well as the
discourse of our democracy," the three wrote. "Given the substantial, ongoing
consolidation in the media industry and recent court decisions striking down
rules that restrain this trend, we are extremely concerned that this competition
and discourse is at risk."

Specifically, the senators want the FCC to look at whether large media
companies take advantage of their size when deciding what programming they will

The so-called program-access rules, which are part of the 1992 Cable Act and
require vertically integrated cable companies to grant all buyers access to
their programming on fair terms, are set to expire in October.

The FCC is conducting a rulemaking on the issue that is supposed to be
completed this summer.

The FCC also is looking at several other media-ownership rules, including how
best to modify a cap on national-television ownership, whether to allow
crossownership of newspapers and TV stations, and whether or not to limit
national ownership of cable systems.