US FCC relaxes media ownership limits

MUMBAI: As expected, US regulators on Monday voted on partisan lines new media ownership rules that allow television broadcasters to expand their reach.

Despite fears the move may reduce the variety of viewpoints available to consumers, the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 to allow television networks to own stations that reach a combined 45 per of the American audience, up from 35 per cent, Reuters has reported.



The changes to FCC policy have eased restrictions that bar a single company from owning more than one television station in larger markets or from owning a newspaper and a radio or television outlet. The new rules allow companies to own two stations in most markets (the smallest markets are excluded) provided one is not in the top four based on ratings and as long as there are still at least five other station owners in the market.

Additionally, the FCC has for the first time allowed three-station combinations in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Dallas, in which 18 or more stations are on the air.

The two Democrats on the FCC had opposed easing media ownership limits, arguing that it would concentrate ownership in the hands of a few, reduce the diversity of viewpoints and stifle reporting of local news.

With this vote, years of lobbying the FCC on the case by executives of every major media company, including Sumner Redstone's Viacom (CBS), General Electric (NBC), Disney (ABC), Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (Fox), and Tribune have finally borne fruit.

The matter does not end here however. The case for and against media ownership will inevitably come before Congress and probably the courts.

The FCC Meeting was televised/Webcast live on C-SPAN, and Webcast live from the FCC Web Site.

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