Full 'Disapproval' nullifies cross-ownership plan

The full Senate lodged formal disapproval of the Federal Communications Commission’s approval to loosen the newspaper-broadcaster cross-ownership ban.

Passing by voice vote on Thursday night, a special “Resolution of Disapproval” would essentially nullify the FCC’s decision last December to allow a media company to own both a newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market subject to conditions.

The House has yet to pass a companion resolution but is expected to do so. But the Bush administration is more than likely to veto it, rendering it useless.

Still, the resolution adds a powerful voice to a growing chorus of critics of the FCC decision, which passed 3-2 along party lines. Also, it is supported by the two candidates still vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

Led by chairman Kevin J. Martin, the commission voted to allow cross-ownership in the top 20 markets in the country. The broadcast station could not be among the top four, and at least eight other outlets would still have to exist following a cross-ownership transaction.

Martin described the measure as a “relatively minor” loosening of the ban. But several consumer and watchdog groups have criticized it as too much, while media companies have complained that it is too little.

Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times and KTLA, among other entities, has sued the FCC over the measure, arguing that the commission should have eliminated the 35-year-old ban altogether, given the plethora of media outlets that have come into existence since it was first imposed.

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