A radical agenda to liberalise regulation of media and telecommunications was unveiled yesterday by Michael Powell, the Bush-appointed chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission and scion of US secretary of state Colin Powell. Observers believe this could trigger an avalanche of consolidations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Powell has already signalled far-reaching changes that may widen the gulf between different regulatory regimes. It is likely he will look favourably on relaxing ownership restrictions over television stations, cable operators and newspapers [WAMN: 09-May-01].

His agenda will not be warmly received by European regulators who will meet today with the FCC chairman. They are unlikely to endorse his views, which he describes as a "philosophical" shift from his predecessors. In diplomatic mode, however, Powell played down the risk of a rift and praised Europe's commitment to greater competition.

But he emphasised the need for a common regulatory framework. “I have a greater confidence in proper market structure as a way of disciplining market behaviour, “ said the FCC chairman. “Regulators have to be a lot more sophisticated about how their decisions affect the capital market.”

“And”, commented one sceptic, “equally sophisticated about the dangers of conferring unfettered power on professional investors and their analyst acolytes.”

News source: Financial Times