WASHINGTON DC: The Federal Communications Commission's controversial decision to loosen cross-media-ownership rules is facing a bipartisan challenge from the nation's lawmakers.

The Republican controlled FCC voted in December to allow media owners to control both a TV channel and a newspaper in the twenty largest US markets, amid assurances by chairman Kevin J Martin that the relaxation of the regulations had been "relatively minimal" and a modest compromise.

He claimed consolidation would help struggling newspapers in big cities by spreading local news-gathering costs across multiple media platforms, a view endorsed by the Newspaper Association of America.

Not so, says Democrat senator and fierce consolidation critic Byron Dorgan (pictured above) who has introduced a "resolution of disapproval", supported by a number of his colleagues.  

Declares Dorgan: "When nearly half of the people in this country are told that in their cities and towns the media will get the green light to consolidate, they will not be happy."

Dorgan's view is shared by free press activists who say easing the ownership rules would eliminate independent voices and degrade local news coverage.

Also among his supporters are Democrat presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Dorgan's resolution is likely to be a vetoed by President Bush, but lobbyists claim a victory in the Senate "would send a strong message" that the easing of ownership rules is opposed by the US public.

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff