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Stewart endorses FCC revamp

New Orleans - Although he faces possibly losing his job, Mass Media Bureau Chief Roy Stewart defended FCC Chairman Michael Powell's reported plan to consolidate the Mass Media
and Cable Services bureaus at the NAB Radio Show in
New Orleans on Thursday.

Stewart said Powell's plan is not "anti-broadcaster" but rather is an effort to push broadcasters to move their businesses into the digital age. "You've got to change your economic model," Stewart said. "You've got to get into what is going on today."

As for whether he would remain chief of the bureau he has headed since 1989, Stewart said: "This bureau chief intends to stay the head of this enlarged bureau." Cable Services Bureau Chief Ken Ferree, an old friend of Powell's from law school, is reported to be the chairman's choice to head the new bureau.

After the session, Stewart said Powell could propose the
change as early as the FCC's September meeting. There
also is some question of whether merging the bureaus
would require Congressional action, Stewart said.
During that panel, Stewart also said the commission
would decide by Sept. 19 whether to appeal the U.S.
District Court of Appeals' decision last June to
strike down the FCC's Equal Employment Opportunity

If the FCC decides against appealing the rules,
Stewart said, it will have to decide whether to scrap
them altogether or to start a new proceeding to see if
the FCC can rewrite constitutionally acceptable rules
that require broadcasters both to offer broad
employment outreach to their communities, while still
giving them the flexibility to choose how they do

The FCC also is moving ahead on its plans to issue
low-power radio licenses, said Peter Doyle, head of
the Audio Services Division. So far, the division has
received 3,000 applications, granted 100 construction
permits and last week issued its first license
application in Alexandria, La.

Also on the agenda is a statutory requirement that it test LPFM in nine markets and then report back to Congress, Doyle said. The commission has hired independent engineering firm Mitre Corp. to develop tests and hopes to complete the tests by May 2003, Doyle said.
- Paige Albiniak