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FCC to review TV-newsprint cross-ownership

The FCC plans in May to start considering whether companies can own TV stations and newspapers in the same market, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said Thursday during his first congressional appearance as chairman.

Companies such as Tribune, Belo, Post-Newsweek and News Corp. have long been pushing to rid themselves of the ban, which they say should no longer apply in a world where one large media company can merge with another. The commission also is soon due to release a rule on whether one company can own two broadcast newtorks, said a top FCC staffer.

Powell told members of Congress that he would defer to a federal court's judgement on whether an ownership cap should stay in place that limits companies to owning only as many TV stations as cover 35% of the national TV audience. But he also said the FCC has a "legal obligation" to complete a biennial review of many of its rules, of which the 35% cap is a part, as ordered by the Telecommunicatios Act of 1996.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit currently is considering the FCC rule to that effect, after companies such as Viacom and News Corp. challenged it. Powell also outlined his four-point plan to reform the agency, which he says he would like to have largely completed within the year.

Those four points are having a clear policy vision, emphasizing the FCC's organization and management, building the FCC's independent technological and economic expertise and restructuring the agency to more accurately reflect marketplace offerings. - Paige Albiniak