Leahy cosponsors bill to restore media ownership rules

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(Host) Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy supports legislation that would restore federal regulations to control media ownership. Leahy has co-sponsored a bill that would roll back changes made recently by the Federal Communications Commissions. Leahy says the FCC action would limit the diversity of media voices around the country.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) This issue of media ownership and influence spans the political spectrum. The conservative National Rifle Association and the more liberal group Consumers Union both say the Federal Communications Commission was wrong to lift regulations on how many media outlets one company can control. The same political dynamic is at work in the Senate, where conservative Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska has teamed up with Democrats to restore the FCC regulations.

A bill that recently passed the Senate Commerce Committee would reinstate rule limits on how many broadcast stations one company could own. A Democratic amendment would also restore regulations that prevent one company from owning a newspaper, a radio station and a TV station in the same market. Senator Leahy says the full Senate needs to vote on the bill soon.

(Leahy) “Because I think otherwise we will be so far down the road of merger and mega-mergers that we’ll never get a chance to vote on it. There will be too much pressure not to. At least now, we have a chance to maintain some diversity in our media.”

(Dillon) Leahy says that unless the ownership rules are restored, the diversity of news and entertainment will be lost.

(Leahy) “One of the great things about having as many outlets as you want is you can get opinion and news that go across the political spectrum. You have a wide choice of entertainment. There’s an ability for new artists to at least be able to have some stations play them or allow them to perform. So you get that diversity, and I think that’s important. Otherwise, why don’t we have one radio station, one TV station, one newspaper for the whole country.”

(Dillon) Leahy says Republican Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, will decide when the Legislation comes to the floor. He says the Bush administration will lobby against the bill.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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