House committee clears sweeping communications reform bill
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The House Commerce Committee in late May approved legislation that would eliminate most price regulation on cable TV, modify restrictions on broadcast ownership rules and authorize a study of on-line pornography issues.
In a 38-5 vote, the committee approved the telecommunications-reform legislation. As passed, the bill would abolish most cable rate regulation as long as a local phone company wins permission to offer competing video programs. Small cable operators with fewer than 600,000 subscribers would have most rate controls lifted immediately.
The bill also strikes down a restriction, adopted during the 1970s, that prohibits a company from owning both a newspaper and a television station in the same city.
Another measure would amend restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcast properties. The bill would relax a current law which limits foreign investment in TV and radio stations to 25 percent. The amendment would raise the limit to 35 percent for one year, then 50 percent the year after that. It also would increase the ability of broadcasters to own other forms of media, including newspapers, phone companies and cable operators.
Another amendment to the bill, offered by Rep. Ron Klink (D- Pa.), requires the U.S. Attorney General to study the possibility of expanding current laws against the distribution of obscenity and child pornography to include distribution by computer. Klink said he is concerned about pedophiles “using the internet to prey upon innocent children.”
The legislation now awaits House floor action. A companion bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee in late March and is set for debate on the Senate floor in early June. (H.R. 1555; S. 652.)