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Facing a possibility that merger restrictions could be eased, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., plans to hold a hearing on media consolidation. McCain’s move comes after the Federal Communications Commission indicated it may revise rules limiting consolidations among newspapers, radio stations and broadcasters. FCC Chairman Michael Powell said the agency will conclude its review of limits on media mergers by June 2. Observers anticipate Powell could loosen rules and permit more media mergers than the existing regulations permit. Existing FCC rules ban a company from owning a newspaper and broadcast outlet in the same market and restrict mergers among the four major national television networks. Regulations also limit how many radio stations a company may own and bar a single company from owning more than two television licenses in a market provided there are at least eight independent stations. Senate Commerce Committee ranking member, Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., said he hoped McCain would invite all five FCC commissioners to testify. Hollings also said he hoped McCain would schedule the hearing as soon as possible following the Easter recess. Earlier last week, Powell said the FCC is likely to replace across-the-board restrictions on media company mergers with a system in which individual deals will be reviewed based on the level of industry concentration in a given market. “My own guess is that the case-by-case approach is the leading probability for the rule,” Powell told reporters after speaking at the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. Critics of the proposal, including the FCC’s two Democrats, say it could limit consumer choice. �Copyright 2003, The Deal, LLC. All rights reserved.

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