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FCC Moves to Further Deregulate Media Ownership

FCC Moves to Further Deregulate Media Ownership

"Today's story is a majority decision unconnected to good policy and not even incidentally concerned with encouraging media to make our democracy stronger."
-Michael Copps, FCC commission member and media diversity advocate

December 18, 2007 —

The FCC voted 3-2 today to relax media ownership rules, allowing the same company to control both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the top 20 markets. The heavily contested ruling was a compromise of sorts, as some commission members—including chairman Kevin Martin—have pushed for a plan that would allow ownership of radio, television and newspaper outlets in all markets. The commission voted in 2003 to allow just that, as well as a 10 percent increase of the cap on the number of television stations a company can own, but a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the changes.

It's possible that this latest attempt at deregulation could be overturned as well, or that Congress could step in and pass legislation that would block it, but the ruling reflects the desire of the nation's largest media companies to consolidate further a sector that has already undergone a radical thinning in the past decade. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 permitted a series of new mergers, leading to the number of major American media companies—which had been 50 in 1983—to drop further, from 10 in 1996 to six in 2005.

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