Mergers, acquisitions and proposed FCC ownership rules change, creating court fights and petitions

When News Corp acquired Chris-Craft Industries' TV group it also added a second TV station in the New York market, WWOR-TV to its list of properties. News Corp already owns New York TV station, WNYW-TV and the New York Post. The FCC granted News Corp a two-year grace period for complying with media cross-ownership limits. These limits require the divestiture of either the newspaper or one of the two TV stations.

The Media Access Project and the United Church of Christ had brought the suit to reverse the merger. The FCC argued that the merger needed no additional public interest review since it complied with established media-ownership limits. A Federal judge pointed out that the FCC had not established a formal policy that stated that mere compliance with the ownership limits precluded a public interest review of the facts surrounding the acquisition. The case is still pending.

This case is part of a larger effort by consumer groups and media labor unions to slow down the FCC's intent to rewrite the broadcast-ownership rules and have commissioners vote on them by next spring. The FCC has set a December 2 deadline for comments on the matter. The Communication Workers of America, the Newspaper Guild and AFTRA, along with several consumer groups have asked the commission to extend the deadline to at least three months.

This issue is one of the six policy priorities established by Chairman Powell. Two concern the telecom industry, promoting broadband deployment and competition. The other four have the potential to directly affect broadcasters.

These four policies are:

  • The FCC restructuring plan is in a stated effort to respond to Congress and consumers in an enhanced way
  • More efficient spectrum use
  • Strengthening the nation's communications infrastructure for homeland security
  • The rollout of DTV and media ownership caps

K. Dane Snowden, Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, said in August that the ownership rule change was intended to encourage the timely development and delivery of new technologies.

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