31 May 2000

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday agreed to consider exceptions to its regulations barring companies from owning a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same area.

It will also consider the relaxation of a rule that blocks any of the 'big four' established TV networks from owning either of the two emerging competitors, Warner Brothers and UPN. If this barrier is lifted, it will allow Viacom to retain UPN despite its recent purchase of the CBS network.

However, despite vigorous lobbying from broadcasters and their political henchmen, there will be no change to the FCC’s stance on national television ownership, which limits a single broadcaster's share of the national audience to 35%. Republican Senator John McCain (Arizona), chairman of the Commerce Committee, recently introduced a bill to lift the cap to 50%.

Opposing any changes to the dual-network rule, FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani issued a statement of partial dissent: if adopted, she argued, the change would "further erode the already tenuous level of diversity available on the public airwaves" . The objective of the FCC’s ownership rules is the promotion of competition and diversity amongst print and broadcast media.

News source: Wall Street Journal