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Copyright 2002 Boston Herald Inc.  
The Boston Herald

September 11, 2002 Wednesday ALL EDITIONS


LENGTH: 384 words

HEADLINE: Media ownership rules in question; Today may be launch of FCC evaluation


Federal regulators are slated to begin a broad review of media ownership rules tomorrow with an eye toward overhauling what some say are outdated limits on broadcasters and newspaper publishers.

Many industry observers predict that easing ownership restrictions, especially regarding broadcast outlets, could trigger a wave of media mergers and consolidation.

The Federal Communications Commission, which had been reviewing various ownership rules in piecemeal fashion, said in June that it plans to issue a single report and order dealing with potential rule changes.

The FCC's five commissioners are expected to vote tomorrow to formally begin that lengthy process. Any resulting changes are not expected before spring 2003, and would likely take longer to kick in.

The decision to consider media ownership rules in their entirety comes after a series of court rulings that took aim at specific limits, particularly on broadcasters.

Courts have told the FCC to justify ownership limits, arguing that its rules aimed at maintaining media diversity, competition and local ownership are based on fears, hunch and intuition, rather than factual evidence. The rules also have been faulted as inconsistent.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has suggested the current rules no longer serve their purpose.

The FCC will consider six ownership rules, including:

** A ban on ownership of TV or radio stations and newspapers in the same market;

** Limits on the number of radio stations that one entity can own in a single market;

** A rule that caps the reach of any one broadcast owner to 35 percent of the national TV audience;

** A rule banning the big four networks from merging;

** Limits on ownership of multiple TV stations in the same market;

** Radio-TV cross-ownership restrictions.

Kenneth Ferree, chief of the FCC's media bureau, said in June that the commission must make ownership rules "judicially sustainable" and that considering the rules together will make that task easier.

Proponents of easing the ownership rules argue that there's much more diversity and competition across the media landscape with cable, the Internet and other outlets.

Opponents say easing the limits could give a few giant publishers and broadcasters too much media power within communities and regions.

LOAD-DATE: September 11, 2002

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