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FCC chair wants vote on media ownership rules by December

[JURIST] FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin [official profile] has circulated a schedule that calls for a final FCC vote in December on a proposal to relax media ownership rules [FCC backgrounder]. Under the current rules, a company may not own a television station and a newspaper in the same market, which is blocking Chicago investor Sam Zell from buying the Tribune Company newspaper conglomerate. Another rule under scrutiny prevents one company from owning two television stations unless one is not in the top four and there are at least eight stations in the market. Under Martin's proposed schedule, the FCC will hold public hearings in Washington on October 31 and on November 2 in Seattle, will publish the proposed rule on November 13, and will hold a final vote on the rule on December 18. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said Wednesday that the schedule does not allow enough time for public debate.

Three years ago, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned [opinion, PDF] a previous FCC effort to relax the media ownership rules. The appeals court found the commission did not sufficiently justify or use reasoned analysis to arrive at some of the proposed rule changes. The US Supreme Court let the decision stand without comment [JURIST report]. Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps [FCC profile], who has been steadfast in his opposition to relaxing the media rules, said Martin's plan to change the rules by December risks another reversal by the Third Circuit. The New York Times has more.

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