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Agreement Reached On Telecom Overhaul

Negotiators reached agreement Wednesday on the final provision in a wide-ranging telecommunications bill - increasing the number of radio and TV stations a company can own, but preserving many other ownership restrictions.

Vice President Al Gore said President Clinton would sign the legislation once the House and Senate act on it, expected this week or next.

Media companies had pushed for the elimination of all federal regulations and the House bill had done just that. But senators wanted to keep some limits on how much newspaper-broadcasting-cable companies could own and the dispute stalled the bill for several days.

In the end, the companies got more freedom to increase their holdings. But many current prohibitions were kept, including the one banning ownership of more than one television station in a single market and the one that forbids ownership of a newspaper and a TV station, a radio station or a cable outlet in the same market.

The agreement was the last hurdle in ambitious legislation that overhauls America’s communications industry for the first time in six decades. It would let local, long-distance and cable companies get into each others’ businesses, deregulate cable rates and, for the first time, outlaw transmission of smutty materials to children over computer networks.

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