FCC Attempts to Restore Post-Attack Normalcy with Media Ownership Review

14 September 2001

Staunchly returning to its statutory duties in Washington DC after Tuesday’s devastating terrorist attacks, the Federal Communications Commission yesterday resumed its review of statutory restrictions on media ownership.

These currently forbid companies from owning TV stations and newspapers in the same market, and also limit the potential audience share of cable-TV operations. Both sets of restrictions go back several decades and were designed to limit media consolidation and ensure a diversity of voices.

However, it is widely expected that the curbs will be diluted – even scrapped – triggering, so analysts believe, a frenzy of media mergers. Chaired by Bush appointee Michael Powell, the FCC will be influenced by his oft-voiced view that the rules are outdated and unnecessary. It will also take into account a raft of recent federal court decisions challenging the rules.

Their scrapping would allow the relative handful of corporate giants that dominate the US media scene – such as AT&T, Clear Channel,Verizon and Viacom – to expand again into new fields.

Opined Blair Levin, an analyst at Legg Mason: “We're changing all the rules at the same time. It's a feedback chamber, where the chairman of the FCC sends a deregulatory signal to the court, and the court sends one back to the FCC, and no one knows where to draw the line,"

News source: Wall Street Journal