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Rereg in the House

FCC rollback passes despite Bush veto threat

WASHINGTON — Critics of the Federal Communication Commission’s revised media ownership regs are ready to celebrate another victory today.

Ignoring a Bush Administration veto threat, the House was poised to roll back a key component of the new rules making it easier for large media congloms to gobble up more TV and radio stations.

The move came even though House GOP leaders oppose efforts to derail the FCC’s June 2 decision. Even before the vote, top Republicans had regrouped and were vowing to sink the rollback language when the House and Senate hash out their conference legislation this fall.

Bipartisan support

Last week, Democrats, along with numerous Republicans, attached an amendment to the measure funding the federal Commerce, Justice and State departments that would gut a major aspect of the new regs.

The House action would effectively return to 35% the cap on the national TV audience one company can reach, by denying the FCC any funds to raise it to the new limit of 45%. The Senate has broader power to legislate on spending bills and insiders predict powerful Republicans such as Appropriations Committee chair Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will launch an effort to return the audience cap to 35%.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) failed to win support for an effort to gut the entire rules rewrite.

‘Pitchforks and torches’

The issue sparked heated debate as both sides squared off on the House floor.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) warned the White House of a major public backlash if the rollback passes Congress and Bush makes good on the veto.

“The White House e-mail is going to melt down,” Inslee said. “You are going to have pitchforks and torches coming (to Washington) to protest.”

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