The much-vaunted relaxation of US media ownership law is in doubt after a Senate committee approved a bill to maintain current restrictions.

The Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday voted in favour of legislation introduced by Ted Stevens (Republican, Alaska) and Ernest Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina).

The bill proposes that the existing ban on media firms reaching more than 35% of homes nationwide should be maintained. This would overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s decision at the start of this month to raise the ownership cap to 45% [WAMN: 03-Jun-03].

Having gained the committee’s approval, the bill will now pass to the Senate floor, where it is expected to gain considerable support within the Republican majority. However, it may face more opposition in the House of Representatives, particularly from Billy Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has backed the FCC decision.

Lawmakers can expect heavy lobbying against the bill from big media firms – not least Viacom and News Corporation, both of which have already breached the 35% bar.

The Senate committee also approved legislation clamping down on spam emails. Introduced by Conrad Burns (Republican, Montana) and Ron Wyden (Democrat, Oregon), this bill would oblige online marketers to comply with consumer requests to be removed from mailing lists, supply a valid return address and provide honest descriptions of their products.

Moreover, the bill would require the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a do-not-email list along the lines of the national do-not-call telemarketing register currently being set up.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff