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A bipartisan group of senators have launched a little-used legislative process that could nullify new Federal Communications Commission rules governing media company mergers. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., on Tuesday introduced a measure that would overturn the FCC’s entire media ownership initiative. Known as a legislative veto, the procedure would force the FCC to revert to regulations in effect before June 2, when the agency eased restraints on television and newspaper mergers. The Senate Commerce Committee will review the measure before it proceeds to the floor for a vote. Dorgan wants the Senate to consider the veto before Congress takes its August recess. The veto, which required support from 30 lawmakers, already has backing from 35 senators, including seven Republicans and 28 Democrats. Despite the growing opposition in the Senate to the FCC media rules, observers note that the House of Representatives is unlikely to approve the veto. If approved in the Senate, the measure would pass to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who would control whether to send it on for a full vote. The Illinois Republican has not taken a public position on the legislation, and his office did not return calls requesting comment. At a press conference to discuss the veto, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who supports the measure, expressed disappointment that key House leaders appear to oppose it. But he noted that Republican support for the veto in the House is building. “Republicans are for deregulation, but when it comes to communications and media we have a unique situation,” he said. The legislative veto would bypass the House Commerce Committee, which is chaired by W.J. “Billy” Tauzin, R-La., a key advocate of the FCC’s media overhaul. Traditional legislative procedures affecting the FCC are normally vetted by the Commerce Committee. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also support the new merger rules. The veto would overturn the agency’s media rules and, among other things, restore the ban on companies owning a newspaper and broadcast outlet in the same market. Many lawmakers also support another ongoing legislative effort to void the media rules. A bill co-sponsored by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., would reinstate many of the ownership limits. It also would strengthen certain provisions by requiring large radio companies, including San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications Inc., to divest assets. The bill, which has emerged from the Senate Commerce Committee and awaits a Senate floor vote, already has 43 co-sponsors, including 10 Republicans and 33 Democrats. Sources say the measure has little chance of passage in the House because of opposition from Republican lawmakers. “By introducing the legislative veto we are showing that every approach is being considered before trying to use the appropriations process,” Lott said. “But if it and other traditional procedures fail, I am confident the appropriations procedure will be used.”

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