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Sen. John McCain on Tuesday warned that media consolidation — particularly the acquisition of independent community broadcast stations by media conglomerates — is limiting the availability of local news. “There is no doubt that locally owned television stations produce more local news,” the Arizona senator said during a press conference on Capitol Hill. “Media consolidation plays into this.” McCain cited a newly released study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communications that found that local TV news outlets devoted more time to covering sports and weather than to local political contests in the run-up to the November elections. The report analyzed the evening news broadcast of 44 TV stations in 11 U.S. markets between Oct. 4 and Nov. 1. Annenberg found that 55 percent of the news coverage pertained to the national presidential campaign, compared with only 8 percent that focused on local races, such as campaigns for the U.S. House, state senate, city council seats, judgeships and other offices. Highlighting his concerns about media consolidation, McCain introduced legislation that would make it more difficult for large media companies to exploit a Federal Communications Commission loophole that permits duel ownership of a newspaper and a TV station in certain markets. Broadcast station owners such as Tribune Co. of Chicago and Media General Inc. of Richmond, Va., have used the loophole to buy newspapers in markets where they own TV stations, an apparent violation of FCC rules. But because the agency reviews renewal applications for TV station licenses only every eight years, media companies are not at risk of violating the cross-ownership provision until their license is up for examination. McCain’s bill would require the FCC to review TV station licenses once every three years. The legislation also would require the FCC to review not only the particular station license up for renewal, but also all other TV stations a media company owns. The senator said he hoped the Senate Commerce Committee would hold hearings on media consolidation and his bill, called the “Localism in Broadcasting Reform Act of 2005.” The FCC in 2003 adopted looser limits on media mergers and eliminated the prohibition on one company owning a TV station and newspaper in the same market. But an appeals court in Philadelphia voided the FCC’s media rules, arguing that the agency did not justify them sufficiently. That leaves the agency with the task of re-examining media ownership regulation, which could take several years. Copyright �2005 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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