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Unions Tell FCC Not to Hold Ownership Vote Yet

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Communications Workers of America essentially told the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday that it should not vote Dec. 18 on a proposed loosening of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules.

The unions said they would prefer retaining the current ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, but they could live with a modification of FCC chairman Kevin Martin's proposed loosening of the ban so long as there were modifications to "ensure that any permitted combinations would not violate the FCC's policy goals of diversity, competition and localism," the unions said in comments to the FCC, including requiring separate newsrooms and editorial staffs (which, among other things, would preserve some union jobs).

But as for voting on that Martin proposal on Dec. 18, as Martin signaled Tuesday that the commission was still planning to do, the unions were clear. They called instead for a 90-day comment period on his proposal after its publication -- in the Federal Register -- as well as resolving separate inquiries into localism and minority ownership. That would push the vote until at least early 2008.

A bill that would essentially mandate that is being pushed by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who will grill the FCC Thursday at a media-ownership hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee.