The presidentially-backed plan to remove all obstacles blocking media giants from owning TV stations and newspapers in the same markets has run into impasse.

The Federal Communications Commission chaired by Bush appointee Michael Powell (son of secretary of state Colin), was scheduled to start the dismantling of present rules at last week’s meeting. But a 2-2 split between the commission’s Republican and Democrat members - the result of an unfilled vacancy - left the matter in abeyance.

Strangely, the split was not wholly on party lines, with the agency's most conservative commissioner, Republican Harold Furchtgott-Roth, siding with its most liberal representative, Democrat Gloria Tristani. Both blocked the planned review, albeit for diametrically opposed reasons: the latter because it went too far in sweeping away the rules, the former because it didn’t go far enough.

Commented one FCC staffer attending the meeting: “It was a real strange-bedfellows type of situation that knocked this off track.” The formal report, however, simply said that the commissioners failed to agree on acceptable language.

With negotiations deadlocked, chairman Powell suspended the issue until he has a full complement of commissioners and a Republican majority.

News source: Wall Street Journal