06.03.2003 12:00 PM
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
FCC adopts historic media ownership changes

In a 3-2 vote, the FCC has approved a series of rule changes that will result in an increase in the concentration of corporate media ownership.

As expected, the FCC voted to relax media ownership regulations, changing the number of stations a single company can own.

The Republican-controlled FCC used their one vote majority to permit media companies to buy more television stations and subject to market size, own a newspaper and a broadcast outlet in the same city.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, led the FCC’s Republican majority to victory on one of the most controversial issues to face the commission in modern times. “Our actions will advance our goals of diversity and localism,” Powell said, noting the old restrictions were too outdated to survive legal challenges and the FCC “wrote rules to match the times.”

The FCC’s Democratic members fiercely opposed the rule changes. Jonathan Adelstein said the changes are “likely to damage the media landscape for decades to come.” His colleague, Michael Copps, said, "the more you dig into this order the worse things get.” The changes, he said, empower “a new media elite" to control news and entertainment.”

As was expected prior to the vote, the FCC directed that a single company could now own TV stations that reach 45 percent of U.S. households instead of 35 percent. The overall ban on joint ownership of a newspaper and a broadcast station in the same city was lessened. The rule change lifts all "cross-ownership" restrictions in markets with nine or more TV stations. Cross-ownership would be banned in markets with three or fewer TV stations.

The FCC also eased rules governing local TV ownership so a single company can own two television stations in more markets and three stations in the largest cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

The original ownership rules were designed to encourage competition and prevent monopoly control of the media. However, a provision of the 1996 telecom legislation requires that the FCC study ownership rules every two years and repeal or modify regulations determined to be no longer in the public interest.

For more information visit www.fcc.gov.

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