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The rise of mega-media

The mega-media era begins in 1989 with the Time/ Warner merger but booms in the '90s. In '92, the FCC raises the radio-station ownership cap from 12 AMs and 12 FMs to 18 of each and permits two of each to be co-located in the same large market.

In '93, the Big Three TV networks get a conditional OK to start up or buy into the lucrative network-rerun business when FCC lifts its financial-interest and syndication rules (full repeal comes in '95).

1994 sees the radio caps raised again, to 20 of each. The FCC allows broadcasters to own as many TV stations as they want, so long as they remain below a cap on total national audience reach.

Viacom buys Paramount Communications. Next comes Disney's $18.5 billion purchase of ABC, Time Warner's purchase of Turner in an $8 billion stock swap, Westinghouse's $5.4 billion purchase of CBS, and Comcast's $1.6 billion purchase of the Scripps cable holdings. And some producers start networks, The WB and UPN debuting in 1995.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 eliminates cable-rate regulation and allows telco-cable competition. AT&T becomes the largest cable operator in 1999 when it buys TCI for $50 billion. The cap on radio-station ownership is eliminated.

In 1997, TV group owner Bud Paxson begins broadcast net Pax TV, and News Corp. buys cable's Family Channel. Radio deals continue to proliferate.

In 1999, AT&T buys Media One, Viacom spends $36 billion for CBS, and the two largest radio groups—Clear Channel and AMFM—combine, giving the merged Clear Channel 830 stations.