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Rep. Armey loses bid to strong-arm Texas media company

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering         Oct 10, 2002    

Rep. Armey loses bid to strong-arm Texas media company

  • A $10 billion military-appropriations bill will not contain an amendment that would force a very specific class of media companies to divest.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) was unsuccessful in his attempt to tag an amendment onto the 2003 Military Construction Appropriations Act that would have forced Dallas-based Belo Corp. to divest itself of one its media properties.

The proposed amendment would have required the Federal Communications Commission to force media companies to divest one outlet only if they fit a set of specific characteristics:

* In a single market, such an outlet would own a newspaper with a Sunday circulation of 750,000 or more. The Dallas Morning News reports a Sunday circulation of 776,387.

* Such an outlet would lack a competitor with Sunday circulation of more than 350,000. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a Knight-Ridder newspaper reports a Sunday circulation of 335,000.

* Such an outlet would own another daily with Sunday circulation of 25,000 or less and a network-affiliated television station. Belo owns the Denton Record-Chronicle, which reports a circulation of 18,856, and WFAA-TV, an ABC affiliate television station.

Earlier this week, Dallas Morning News, a Belo property, accused Armey of targeting the company in retaliation for its coverage of Armey’s son Scott’s failed attempt to capture his father’s seat after he retires this year.

Articles in the Morning News and the Record-Chronicle looked at Scott Armey’s record as county judge, including his votes for contracts benefitting political associates.

“There is no substantive reason or explanation for this unprecedented action,” said Belo chairman Robert Decherd in a statement issued Oct. 6. “Congressman Armey’s misplaced blame of Belo for his son’s loss in a recent Congressional primary race in Denton County, Texas is truly unfortunate. His misuse of Congressional leadership powers for personal retaliation toward Belo is not in keeping with the positive results Congressman Armey has produced for his constituents during his long tenure as a member of the Texas Congressional delegation.”

Armey’s office did not return a call for comment. An Armey spokesman told the news media that the move was not in retaliation but stemmed from the congressman’s concern about the concentration of media ownership.

The amendment did not make it into the bill this week, but Armey’s spokesman said the congressman will look for other venues for to address his media ownership concerns.

“We remain extremely disappointed in Congressman Armey’s admitted intention

to target Belo and its employees and will diligently monitor his legislative and regulatory actions,” Belo’s Decherd said in followup statement Oct. 8.

JL


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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