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D.C. Decision May Signal Start of a Selling Season

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

D.C. Decision May Signal Start of a Selling Season

Article excerpt

With two of FCC's TV ownership regs struck by lightning in a federal court, M&A activity looms large in forecast

A federal appeals court has opened the way for what may become a spirited round of consolidation among broadcast and cable television companies. Newspapers may benefit in a couple of ways -- even as they gird to battle for audience with ever-larger media firms.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to come up with better reasons to limit any TV network's owned-and-operated stations from reaching more than 35% of the national audience. In its Tuesday ruling, the court went further on another regulation, voiding the FCC rule that kept cable TV systems from owning local broadcast stations.

The court decision heartened those who want the FCC to jettison its ban on common ownership of a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market. Like the besieged 35% broadcast standard, the rule aims to preserve the diversity of voices and local ownership.

The court's action "is another indication that the commission should be on the path toward repealing" the newspaper-broadcast rule, said John F. Sturm, CEO and president of the Newspaper Association of America. Opponents of media concentration reacted with alarm. "This decision erodes the public's First Amendment rights to have a diversely owned media marketplace," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. …

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