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Washington Notes

Feb 16, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia last week appeared to be so leery about the Federal Communications Commission’s justification for relaxing a rule barring broadcasters from buying daily newspapers in their markets that watchdog group representatives predicted the court would at least send the issue back to the agency for further consideration.
The court heard oral arguments last week, and a decision could be issued within the next several months.
Judge Thomas Ambro, a member of the three-judge panel considering the challenges to the controversial decision by the Republican-dominated panel to relax agency media ownership rules last year, noted that the “diversity index” that the agency developed to justify deregulation would credit a college TV station for having more influence than The New York Times. “He was clearly concerned that the diversity index was wrong,” said Cheryl Leanza, deputy director of the activist Media Access Project, the group leading the charge in the court challenge. “If the diversity index was wrong, then the rules based on the index are wrong,” she added.
Legg Mason issued a report concurring with Ms. Leanza’s assessment. “The court appeared troubled by the `diversity index,’ which could lead the court to remand the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule back to the FCC, complicating the apparent consolidation plans of companies such as Tribune and Media General,” the Legg Mason report said.
Barton Gets Key Endorsement
A steering committee headed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., last week recommended that Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, be named chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, effective Feb. 16.
Rep. Barton is slated to succeed Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., who has stepped down to consider a lucrative offer to head a pharmaceutical industry trade association.
CEA Names Top Noms for Advancing DTV
Who in the federal government did the most to advance the cause of digital television last year? The Consumer Electronics Association’s top three nominees in its annual contest are Rep. Rick Boucher, R-Va., Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell. The winner will be announced March 29.