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Bill Would Allow Foreign Ownership

Reps. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) offered legislation Jan.13 repealing rules against foreign ownership of U.S. broadcast outlets.

Notably, Oxley and Boucher have lined up an important cosponsor of the measure – House telecommunications subcommittee chairman Jack Fields (R-Texas) – a factor that ensures likely passage of the measure out of his panel.

The bill comes as Fox owner Rupert Murdoch is in hot water at the FCC over alleged violation of rules barring foreigners from owning 25% of U.S. TV stations. Fox lobbyist Peggy Binzel said her company believes it is “in compliance with existing law” and does not need passage of the Oxley bill to avert FCC punishment.

The Oxley/Boucher measure would repeal a provision in the 1934 Communications Act establishing the foreign ownership limits. In a statement, Oxley said, “In the spirit of NAFTA and GATT, this is an American competitiveness bill more than a foreign ownership bill.”

It’s unclear whether key Democrats in Congress will support the Oxley/Boucher bill. Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have displayed protectionist leanings in the past, as has Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.).

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