Small-Market TV Stations Voice Their Cross-Ownership Gripes

It was not only anti-consolidation activists taking aim at the Federal Communications Commission's vote Tuesday to loosen newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules and close its media-ownership-rule review.

A group representing small-market TV stations said the FCC made a mistake in stopping there and not loosening the duopoly rules to allow owners in smaller markets to own more than one station.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin said the commission concluded that those rules should not be loosened, although the FCC proposed to do so in 2003.

In a statement, coalition president Paul McTear of Raycom Media said the FCC "failed to take into account evidence in the record regarding the harm that the duopoly rule does to the ability of television stations in smaller markets to serve their communities," adding that he didn't see how the decision -- which Martin said was based partially on public input in media-ownership hearings, as well as congressional criticism -- would satisfy the D.C. Circuit's remand of the duopoly rule or the Philadelphia Federal Court's instruction to look at "all of its ownership rules to ensure that they remain in the public interest."

The rule change is not yet official -- it must first be issued in final form and printed in the Federal Register -- but it will certainly be taken to court either by activists saying it went too far or media companies saying it didn't go far enough.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.