What Was Passed

Jun 9, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Assuming their survival, the new media ownership regulations, adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in a partisan 3-to-2 vote last Monday, would for the first time clear the way for a single company to own up to three TV stations, a daily newspaper, eight radio stations and a local cable TV system in each of the nation’s largest markets.
One of the agency’s key rulings last week all but eliminated a regulation that barred broadcasters from buying a daily newspaper in their markets.
Under the new rule, the ban was eliminated altogether in markets with nine or more TV stations. Cross-ownerships would continue to be barred in markets with three or fewer TV stations.
But in markets with four to eight TV stations, a company could choose from a menu of ownership possibilities, including a daily newspaper, a TV station and up to half of the radio stations generally permitted under the agency’s radio-ownership regulations.
Other options on the menu would be to merge two TV stations with all of the radio stations generally allowed or a daily newspaper and the radio stations.
In another key ruling, the FCC substantially relaxed a regulation that bars broadcasters from owning more than one TV station in all but the nation’s largest markets.
Under the new rule, broadcasters would be free to acquire three TV stations in markets in the estimated nine markets with more than 18 TV stations, with the caveat that the market’s four top-rated stations can’t merge.
The new regulation also says that broadcasters can own two TV stations in markets with five or more television stations, again with the understanding that the four top stations can’t merge .
At a briefing for reporters, FCC staffers said the new regulations would clear the way for mergers of newspapers and TV stations in all but 31 of the nation’s 210 markets. Sources said the new regulations would continue to bar duopolies in 72 markets.
Also last week, the FCC majority announced its decision to leave in effect a rule that currently allows broadcasters a 50 percent discount when determining station reach for their UHF properties under the national ownership cap. But the FCC said the discount would sunset when stations switch to digital.
In addition, the FCC announced its decision to leave on the books a regulation that bars the Big 4 TV networks from merging with each other.