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Divided FCC Enacts Rules On Media Ownership

Members of Code Pink, a feminist anti-war group, object to the cross-ownership rule at the FCC meeting.
Members of Code Pink, a feminist anti-war group, object to the cross-ownership rule at the FCC meeting. (Photos By Joshua Roberts -- Bloomberg News)

Proponents of the rule change said it would mean more local news, with television stations drawing on newspaper reports and newspapers able to offset the cost of newsgathering with television advertising revenue.

Newspaper companies fought hard for the rule change five years ago, but showed less interest in it this time because of changing market conditions in the television business. In the past, newspapers saw the high profits of television stations and envisioned significant cost-saving synergies between the properties. But that strategy was crippled by the rise of Internet video, which ate away at newspaper readers, television viewers, and the revenue of both mediums.

The Newspaper Association of America offered mild applause to the cross-ownership ruling. It is "a baby step in the actions needed to maintain the vitality of local news, in print and over-the-air, in all communities across the nation," association President John F. Sturm said in a written statement.

This was the FCC's second attempt to relax the rule. A broader attempt in 2003 was remanded to the FCC by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia, which said the agency did not adequately justify its reasoning. The new rule is expected to face legal challenge from a number of groups, including the Media Access Project.

A 30 percent national cable ownership cap was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit several years ago. Yesterday, Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, with about 27 percent of all subscribers, predicted that it would be reversed in court again, calling the FCC vote "perverse."

Copps and Adelstein joined Martin in voting for the ownership cap, while Tate and McDowell opposed it.

In an interview, Copps predicted that yesterday's vote would withstand a court challenge because the FCC has better justified its reasoning.


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