WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a stinging rebuke to the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission, the Senate voted 55 to 40 to nullify the FCC's recently relaxed media ownership rules.
Republican and Democratic critics of the new FCC regulations say the rules would give large media companies too much influence and allow them to dominate local air waves.
Under the regulations, adopted in early June but put on hold by a federal court order until legal challenges are played out, media companies would be permitted "cross ownership" of both broadcast outlets and newspapers in the same market place. Media companies also would be able to own more radio and TV stations nationwide.
Proponents of the new regulations, like Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), said the rules would lead to more choices for viewers and listeners and would increase local news coverage because newspapers and broadcasters, if owned by the same company, would be able to share the expensive costs of news gathering.
Senate opponents of the rules, including Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), employed a provision that allows Congress to overturn executive branch regulations. The Congressional Review Act was created by the GOP-controlled Congress during the Clinton administration.
FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell sharply criticized the Senate, saying its actions -- if passed by the House and signed by President Bush -- would "only muddy the media regulatory waters."
"It would bring no clarity to media regulation, only chaos. It would create perverse results, such as a return to looser radio rules permitting greater consolidation. This is a harm the FCC's new media rules were designed to avoid," said Powell.
"What is most important is to have the best policies for the American people. I hope the House will take a more considered view of the public interest," Powell added.
The bill is unlikely to be adopted by the House, where Republican leaders who support the new rules are not expected to schedule the measure for consideration, said a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Lawmakers are moving other legislation that would reverse only the section of the new FCC rules allowing a media company to own broadcast stations which reach up to 45 percent of U.S. viewers. A similar measure already passed the House and will be offered in the Senate in the coming weeks.
The White House had said President Bush will veto any attempted changes to the regulations.
A spokesman for Dorgan said the senator hopes a public outcry will influence House leaders and President Bush to abandon the rules.