Copyright 2001 Boston Herald Inc. The Boston
September 11, 2001 Tuesday ALL EDITIONS
SECTION: FINANCE; Pg. 036
LENGTH: 672 words
ruling could lead to consolidations
BODY: By GREG GATLINOpponents of easing limits on media ownership predict "a
bloody battle" as federal regulators take up a review Thursday of long-standing
restrictions on owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market.
Figurative bloody battle predictions, however, may amount
to little more than hot air, in light of a Republican-dominated Federal
Communications Commission, whose chairman has already questioned the validity of
the restrictions. And federal judges are taking an increasingly hostile view of
government limits on media ownership.
Thursday are slated to address the controversial 26-year-old ban on common
ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same geographic area. A
proposed rulemaking notice will kick off the review.
Possible results range from total retention of the restrictions, to
total elimination, to something in between. The rulemaking notice sets the stage
for public comments to the FCC.
Some predict easing the
rule would trigger a new media consolidation wave, with publishers and
broadcasters merging or swapping holdings to bulk up in geographic
Jeff Chester, executive director
with the Center for Digital Democracy, says keeping the current restrictions in
place is "worth fighting for."
"We're organizing a
campaign with other consumer groups to preserve these rules," Chester said.
"There's going to be a bloody battle over these rules."
Chester said the cross-ownership ban, along with
other government restrictions on media ownership, are aimed at
restraining a single company from gaining too much political power in a
community. "The end result of eliminating all these rules will mean one company
can own several TV stations, most of the radio stations, the cable system and a
newspaper in a single town."
But FCC Chairman Michael
Powell has said he's skeptical of blanket limits on media ownership, suggesting
they violate First Amendment protections and do little to promote diversity.
Meanwhile, federal appeals judges last week took a harsh
tone toward other media ownership limits, including one that prevents a
television network from owning stations reaching more than35 percent of U.S.
Richard Wiley, a former FCC chairman who
now represents the newspaper industry, says current limits have kept newspapers
on the sidelines as other media have consolidated. "With all the
voices that you have it's very hard for anybody to
control the communications universe today. That's the case we have to make," he
Graphic: New media ownership rules coming?
The FCC on Thursday is expected to discuss easing limits
that have been in place for 26 years that restrict a person or company from
owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market.
** Federal Communications Commission Commissioners
* Michael K. Powell, chairman
sworn in: November 3, 1997
Department of Justice Antitrust Division chief of staff.
Powell has said he's skeptical of blanket limits on media ownership,
and has questioned whether current rules actually succeed in producing diversity
of views. He's questioned the validity of the newspaper-broadcast
** Commission members:
* Kathleen Q. Abernathy
Sworn in May 31, 2001.
Former director for government affairs at BroadBand One
Inc., and a former partner in the Washington law firm of Wilkinson Barker Knauer
* Michael J. Copps
Sworn in May 31, 2001.
Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade
Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Former staffer for U.S. Sen.
Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), a staunch backer of keeping FCC ownership rules in
* Kevin J. Martin
Sworn in July 3, 2001.
Former Special Assistant to the President for Economic
Policy. Served on the Bush-Cheney Transition Team and was Deputy General Counsel
for the Bush campaign. Former advisor to FCC Commissioner Harold