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US: FCC repeals decades-old rules blocking broadcast media mergers

 |  November 19, 2017

Federal regulators rolled back a series of decades-old regulations on Thursday, November 16, in a move that will make it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold — potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a small handful of companies.

The regulations, eliminated in a 3-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), were initially put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets who are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“Few of the FCC’s rules are staler than our broadcast ownership regulations,” said Pai. By eliminating them, he said, “this agency finally drags its broadcast ownership rules to the digital age.”

Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, countered, “this agency sets its most basic values on fire… As a result of this decision, wherever you live, the FCC is giving the green light for a single company to own the newspaper and multiple television and radio stations in your community. I am hard pressed to see any commitment to diversity, localism, or competition in that result.”

One longstanding rule repealed Thursday prevented one company in a given media market from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station reported WSJ. Another rule blocked TV stations in the same market from merging with each other if the combination would leave fewer than eight independently owned stations. The agency also took aim at rules restricting the number of TV and radio stations any media company could simultaneously own in a single market.

A major beneficiary of the deregulatory moves, analysts say, is Sinclair, the conservative broadcasting company seeking to buy up Tribune Media for US$3.9 billion.

Full Content: Washington Post

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