Dorgan, Lott plan media-ownership intervention

by John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who are something of a bipartisan tag team against media consolidation, scheduled a press conference for Wednesday at noon in the Senate Radio & TV Gallery to talk about radio and TV.

The two are working on a media-ownership bill that would prevent Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin from what they argued would be a rush to judgment on a media-ownership-rule rewrite now 18 months in the making.

The bill will be one of the subjects of the press conference, although it is unclear whether they will have the legislation ready to introduce, according to a staffer, who said it will deal with both process and policy.

Martin's policy proposal is expected to be to scrap the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules, at least, and perhaps also to loosen the duopoly rules to allow a single owner to own more stations in smaller markets.

The process Martin proposed is: releasing a report on the effects of broadcast localism in the next couple of weeks; holding the final localism hearing in Washington, D.C., Oct. 31; holding the final media-ownership hearing in the other Washington, Seattle, Nov. 2; releasing his own proposals for the rule rewrite Nov. 13; allowing the public to comment on them until Dec. 11; then voting on the rules Dec. 18.

Dorgan, one of the most vocal critics of consolidation, reacted angrily last week at the news of Martin's timetable and said there would be a firestorm of protest and he would be carrying the matches.

Dorgan was joined this week by Barack Obama, who sent Martin a letter asking him to slow down, as well as to solicit more input on the effect of consolidation on minorities and women.

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