Senate Opposes Media Ownership Rule

FCC would allow newspapers in big cities to own broadcast outlets.

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With a White House veto threat looming, the Senate voted Thursday night to throw out a new Federal Communications Commission rule allowing a newspaper in any of the nation's top 20 media markets to own a TV or radio station in the same market. The measure, introduced by North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan, passed on a voice vote.

Earlier in the day, the Bush administration defended the FCC rule, saying it "modestly and judiciously modernizes decades-old media ownership regulations that highly restrict cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations."

Officials said President Bush's advisers would urge him to veto the measure should it pass the House, where a companion resolution has been introduced.

The Senate measure drew 27 cosponsors, including Democrats Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois. Republican John McCain of Arizona, another presidential hopeful, was not a cosponsor.

Dorgan saluted Senate passage, saying the new rule not only would allow consolidation in the biggest markets but would "open a gaping loophole for more mergers of newspapers and television stations across the country." He added: "We already have too much concentration in the media. Diverse, independent, and local media sources are essential to ensuring that the public has access to a variety of information."

Earlier, Dorgan had said that if Bush vetoes the measure, "he can answer to the American people where he stands on increased concentration of broadcasting."

—Katherine Skiba