Hollings wants to keep 35 percent station cap

Mar 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Upset about a recent court ruling that further relaxes the broadcast ownership rules, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., plans to hold a hearing on the issue this month, possibly on March 20.
He’s working with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ranking minority member on the panel, to arrange the hearing.
Addressing reporters at a Capitol Hill briefing last week, Sen. Hollings said the 35 percent cap on broadcast ownership-which a federal appeals court in Washington sent back to the Federal Communications Commission for further consideration-should not be increased.
“That’s a bad decision, and I hope it’s appealed,” he said of the court’s action, which also axed the broadcast-cable cross-ownership rule.
He said the 35 percent cap was well conceived, works effectively and fosters a diversity of media voices.
Senate Commerce panel spokesman Andy Davis said the South Carolina lawmaker has a bill pending that requires the FCC to explain to Congress, before making a change to the broadcast ownership rules, why the revision would serve the public interest.
Mr. Davis said his boss would step up his efforts to get the bill passed.
Meanwhile, House Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., who praised the appellate court’s actions, said his colleague Fred Upton, R-Mich., head of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet, will probably hold a hearing on media ownership issues.
On another issue, Sen. Hollings reiterated that he remains concerned about NBC’s decision to air hard-liquor ads and may hold a hearing on the issue.
“I’ll try to bring pressure on NBC,” he said, adding that he may discuss the situation with NBC Chairman and CEO Bob Wright, who is also vice chairman the network’s parent company, GE. The American Medical Association ran a full-page ad in Feb. 27’s New York Times that criticized NBC’s move to air the spots.