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USC hosts FCC ownership talk

Nets, media congloms want less rules; creatives say no

Hollywooders will finally get a chance to sound off in person on the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed easing of media ownership rules.

USC’s Center for Communication Law & Policy will host a hearing on the issue Monday, two months after an East Coast snowstorm forced a last-minute cancellation of the event.

Four of the five commissioners had been set to attend the cancelled confab; Monday’s forum will by attended only by commissioner Michael Copps, who has been a persistent advocate of public discussion of the issue. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein may participate by videoconference.

Other participants will include writer-producer William Blinn; the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists prexy John Connolly; Jay Harris, founding director of the USC Center for the Study of Journalism and Democracy; UCLA professor Darnell Hunt; TV producer Jerry Isenberg; Marty Kaplan, associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication; ABC Entertainment exec VP Mark Pedowitz; and Tribune Co. VP Shaun Sheehan.

There will be a 45-minute public comment period.

The forum — the only such event in Southern California — comes six weeks before the FCC is skedded to take a vote. Washington insiders expect the FCC to approve raising the current 35% cap on the national audience a broadcaster can reach to as much as 50%.

Other rules up for review include the bans on owning a TV station and newspaper in the same major market and on owning multiple media outlets in one market.

Nets and media congloms have been pushing for easing the regs, asserting that they are outmoded amid hundreds of broadcasting and satcasting channels. But showbiz guilds and independent creators have warned against loosening the rules, contending that congloms already have too much power in owning content and distribution pipelines.

Earlier this month, media mogul Barry Diller backed opponents of deregulation and advocated a revival of strong limits on the financial interest that nets, cablers and satcasters can have in companies that produce entertainment.

Sandra Ortiz, exec director for the USC center, said, “There has been a lot of continuing interest in the Los Angeles community for us to hold the hearing.”

The only officially sanctioned FCC hearing was held Feb. 27 in Richmond, Va.

Adelstein is expected to attend a hearing on the issue Saturday at San Francisco City Hall.

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