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Federal regulators have reversed a controversial decision that had sparked a storm of protest from the nation's religious broadcasters and Republican lawmakers.

The Federal Communications Commission overturned its determination that certain religious programming could not count as educational.

The FCC's original action, though affecting only a limited number of religious broadcasters, had prompted complaints that regulators were trying to control the content of religious TV. A lawmaker introduced legislation last week that would have reversed the FCC's order.

On Friday, the commissioners, in a 4-1 vote, reversed it themselves.

The controversy stemmed from an FCC decision in December regarding broadcasters who seek licenses for specially reserved educational TV channels. To qualify for such licenses, the commission said that broadcasters must devote 50 percent of their air time to educational programs.

The commission determined that programming "primarily devoted to religious exhortation, proselytizing or statements of personally held religious views and beliefs generally would not qualify as 'general educational' programming."

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