B’casters face trouble in budget bill language

WASHINGTON — The effort by broadcasters to load the current budget bill with provisions that would deregulate the ownership of TV stations is running into trouble.

The current version of the budget-balancing bill would give broadcasters permission to own more than one TV station in cities that have populations larger than 400,000. It also would end the ban on owning a newspaper and a TV station in the same market. Neither provision would take place until broadcasters complete the migration to a digital-only TV service.

But Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) oppose the effort to load the budget bill with ownership deregulation. In addition, the Senate has a rule that bars budget bills from being loaded down with extraneous provisions. The deregulatory provisions were added to the budget bill that also give every TV station a free second TV channel to launch a digital service. A final decision concerning the ownership provisions is expected today.

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