Copyright 2001 Boston Herald Inc. The Boston
April 25, 2001 Wednesday ALL EDITIONS
SECTION: FINANCE; Pg. 033
LENGTH: 491 words
HEADLINE:Media rules may relax - Deregulation could eliminate 'cross-ownership' ban
BODY: As Federal
Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell signaled his opposition to
limits on media holdings in a speech to broadcasters yesterday, industry and
government sources say the "cross-ownership" ban on newspaper-broadcaster
combinations in the same city could be next in line for elimination.
An aide to U.S. Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), the
powerful chairman of the House Commerce Committee, said yesterday that if the
FCC fails to lift the cross-ownership rule, Congress may take its own action.
"If the FCC doesn't repeal this antiquated rule then
there's a very good possibility that Congress will in the near future," Tauzin
spokesman Ken Johnson said.
Since 1975, the FCC has
barred newspaper owners from holding a broadcast license for a station in the
same market. The ban has forced sales of both broadcasters and newspapers over
In an April 18 letter to Powell, Tauzin
wrote that "a panoply of rules" - including newspaper-broadcaster and
cable operator-broadcast station cross-ownership - were born
of a time when far fewer media outlets fueled demand for more diverse
"The Commission's rules must reflect
today's world, not that of 50 years ago," Tauzin wrote.
Powell may agree. He told a House panel in March that the
cross-ownership rule ought to be validated or eliminated.
John Sturm, the chief executive of the Newspaper Association of
America, a foe of the cross-ownership ban, said there's "no chance" the FCC will
back the rule.
"There's no way that these rules, put
together in the early '70s for the media world that existed then, can be
validated in today's world," Sturm said. "The sources of information are so much
greater now . . . as to be almost overwhelming."
spokesman said yesterday that the commission staff is preparing the formal
process of reviewing the ban.
The review could provoke
sharp opposition in some quarters.
Critics of easing
the ban, such as Andy Schwartzman of the Media Access Project, contend that a
community's newspaper and television or radio station, if held by the same
owner, could give that owner too much local influence.
But Schwartzman knows he's fighting an uphill battle at the FCC.
"Powell has laid out his predilections," Schwartzman said.
"He's entitled to have a preliminary opinion, but we expect him also to approach
it with an open mind."
Speaking to broadcasters in Las
Vegas yesterday, Powell said blanket limits on broadcast outlet ownership
"almost always are poorly calibrated," and may not withstand First Amendment
scrutiny. Most recently, Powell's FCC eased a ban on one TV network owning
Photo Caption: NEXT IN LINE: With Michael
Powell, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, coming out
yesterday against limits on media holdings, there's a growing belief that
rules blocking 'cross-ownership' of newspapers and broadcast
outlets could be lifted. AP photo