Group of U.S. Senators, led by Fritz Hollings and Ted Stevens, seeks massive regulation of media ownership.

WASHINGTON — On June 2, 2003, the Federal Communications Commission held its Media Ownership Biennial Review, in which the FCC voted to increase the number of television stations broadcast networks may purchase from 35 percent of audience reach to 45 percent, and to lift the ban on newspapers purchasing television stations in the same city.

The old media ownership rules were written when only three commercial television networks existed. However, the prevalence of hundreds of cable television channels and Internet sites have rendered these restrictions obsolete, as there are now limitless sources of diverse information available to all consumers.

Furthermore, of the 1,721 full-power commercial and non-commercial television stations in the U.S., each of the four major networks owns less than three percent. The danger of a single monolithic network controlling all television information is greatly exaggerated.

Yet, a group of senators, led by Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) now wishes to pass legislation to reverse the FCC\’s rulings, restoring these obsolete bans and impeding the free market of media ownership through several vehicles, including S. 1046, the Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity, and Competition in Television Broadcast Service Act of 2003.

S. 1046 would reverse the FCC\’s decision regarding increasing the television audience reach percentage and restore the 35 percent ownership limitation, an outdated and anti-free market regulation.

"The ownership limits were a bad idea to begin with," said taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in Washington, "but now they\’re also obsolete. In any market, the real power to limit ownership should lie in the hands of consumers. Unfortunately some senators think that Washington knows better than you do how to use that power."

S. 1046 was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on June 19, 2003, and awaits floor action.