Clinton Backs FCC Ownership Regs

Citing national security concerns, the Clinton administration says it opposes Republican plans to lift rules barring foreigners from owning U.S. radio and TV stations.

Larry Irving, the White House’s top telecommunications adviser, told the Senate Commerce Committee on March 2 that the administration favors allowing unfettered foreign investment in U.S. telephone and other telecommunications businesses. But the White House draws the line when it comes to easing rules that bar foreigners from owning more than 25% of broadcasting properties, Irving said.

“We should not be too hasty in lifting restrictions on the amount of foreign influence over, or control of, broadcast licenses due to the editorial discretion of broadcasters over the content of transmissions,” said Irving. The White House telco adviser later said broadcasting “has a different basis” than telephones because of “national security concerns.”

“It doesn’t make sense to open (U.S. TV and radio stations) to foreign concerns,” said Irving.

Clouding the issue is the ongoing FCC investigation into whether Rupert Murdoch violated the 25% foreign ownership limit when he bought six U.S. TV stations in 1986. Irving said the Murdoch probe had no influence on the administration’s support for continued restrictions against non-American ownership of U.S. TV stations.

Irving told lawmakers the White House also supports continued federal price controls on cable TV rates. Pressler has floated a proposal that would lift cable rate regulation.

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