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Congress has quashed legislation aimed at rolling back Federal Communications Commission rules easing media industry mergers. The bill had been attached to an amendment on media decency attached to a Department of Defense reauthorization bill. Republican lawmakers, debating the must-pass defense measure in a House-Senate conference committee, said Thursday they removed the controversial media ownership measure to ensure the underlying bill passed. The media provision would have overturned FCC regulations that open the door to more mergers among newspaper, TV and radio companies. The decency amendment, which would have substantially increased how much the FCC could fine broadcasters for airing indecent material, also was dropped. Experts said a vote by Congress to pass the media merger measure would have amounted to a major symbolic defeat for advocates of industry consolidation, including FCC Chairman Michael Powell. But they also pointed out that the legislation would not have had a significant impact on media deals because a federal court has already stayed FCC rules loosening limits on media mergers. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in June ordered the agency to rewrite the regulations. Powell said recently that the FCC, which has four years to adopt new rules, will take its time evaluating the court’s decision before issuing new regulations. Legislative observers said lawmakers blamed the media ownership provision, introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., for sinking the indecency measure. “The indecency provisions standing alone, given the bipartisan support for it, would probably have sailed through if it wasn’t weighed down by the attached media ownership provision,” said Andrew Lipman, a partner at law firm Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman in Washington, D.C. “This shows just how much institutional distaste lawmakers have about attaching non-germane legislation to authorization bills.” Copyright �2004 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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