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FCC Undertakes Historic Overhaul of Ownership Rules - TvTechnology

FCC Undertakes Historic Overhaul of Ownership Rules

In a review likened to the astronomical revelations of Copernicus, the FCC today began the process of reviewing most of the major rules governing ownership of media. At stake, said commissioners and Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree, are the very fabric of American media and the values of diversity and localism that under
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In a review likened to the astronomical revelations of Copernicus, the FCC today began the process of reviewing most of the major rules governing ownership of media.

At stake, said commissioners and Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree, are the very fabric of American media and the values of diversity and localism that underpin Congressional mandates to serve the public interest.

"The Media Bureau item before you today begins a process of almost Copernican scope," Ferree said, referring to the revolutionary but once-heretical notion that the Earth revolves around the sun. "It challenges an axiom upon which our media-ownership rules and policies have been founded for generations: that broadcast television and radio are at the center of the media universe. It is, in short, the most comprehensive regulatory review ever undertaken on commission broadcast-ownership rules."

The review comes in the wake of court decisions that sent some FCC rules back to the commission for reworking and justification. The commission is handling several rules under one procedure in a quest for consistency in the way the rules are created.

Up for comment and likely change are nearly all the major rules: the national broadcast-ownership cap, the single-market broadcast restrictions, radio-television cross-ownership and newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership.

Not under consideration, for now, is revival of the cable-broadcast cross-ownership ban, which was struck down in court. With no such rule now in place, the possibility conceivably exists for purchase of television stations or even an entire network by a company with major cable interests.

Also not under immediate review is the nationwide cable penetration cap, currently at 40 percent. That issue could arise in a separate proceeding.

Ferree said the bureau would soon issue several studies - as many as 10 - addressing issues such as media usage, diversity of viewpoint and the role of the Internet.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking promises heavy lobbying by major media interests and watchdog groups. Ferree said the Media Bureau is likely to have an order ready for commissioners by spring; but, he joked, he wasn't going to specify which hemisphere he meant.