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Obama on the stump for localism

Candidate says FCC has failed to promote diversity

The media ownership debate took on a presidential tenor Monday when Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., urged the Republican chairman of the FCC to alter his stance regarding the rules.

In a letter dated Monday, the presidential contender asked FCC chairman Kevin Martin to reconsider his aggressive timeline for any proposed rule changes and to vet his proposals with the public.

"Minority owned-and-operated newspapers and radio stations play a critical role in the African-American and Latino communities and bring minority issues to the forefront of our national discussion," Obama wrote. "However, the commission has failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism, and as a result, it is in no position to justify allowing for increased consolidation of the market.

"Moreover, 30 days of public review of a specific proposed change is insufficient to assess the effect that change would have on the media marketplace or the rationale on which any such proposal is based."

Martin has indicated that he wants to wrap up the ownership regulation review soon, with a vote before year's end. He reportedly has suggested that the commission release his proposals before the commission votes on them, giving the public a month to comment and perhaps make changes.

Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, also have called for Martin to slow down.

Other lawmakers also have been critical of the proposed changes, which include lifting the outright bar that keeps ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets separate in local markets. While there are several of the combinations nationwide, they have been allowed under individual, temporary waivers.

Martin can likely count on the votes of Republican commissioners Deborah Tate and Robert McDowell, but it is unclear if he can win the support of Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein.