03-31-03 | Printable Version

Easing of Cross-Ownership Rules May Be Coming Soon

by Thomas J. Buono, BIA Financial Network

A long-anticipated loosening of the ban on owning newspapers and broadcast properties in the same markets appears to be headed for approval at least by summer.

Proposals to ease the cross-ownership rules in local markets is the least controversial issue facing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is evaluating a number of regulations regarding ownership in the media and communications industries.

Consequently, it is strongly believed that the FCC will substantially loosen the rule governing local ownership. Newspaper and local broadcast stations in many markets, including some that would be considered middle-sized, might soon have new opportunities to combine their local operations.

The FCC currently is looking at submissions from interested parties on the cross-ownership issue. Many parties have submitted research for complete repeal of the newspaper-broadcast ban while others for maintaining the existing ban.

Chairman Michael Powell has committed to finishing this process by the spring of this year. While that self-imposed deadline may slip somewhat, there are expectations that the FCC will decide by at least the summer.

Republican Commissioner Kevin J. Martin, who emerged as an important swing vote in February when he sided with Democrats on regulations involving local telephone companies, has indicated he might support removing the newspaper-broadcast restrictions.

Some analysts, however, still consider him a wild card, and his views will be important in crafting any final changes to the cross-ownership regulations.