Washington - Dec 18, 2007 - The long-awaited vote on the revision to the FCC's rules on cross ownership of a TV or radio station and a newspaper in the same market has taken place. The change allows companies in the 20 largest markets nationally to own both outlets. The plan, announced in November by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, has been hotly debated since that time. The final vote: 3-2, with the Republicans Martin, Tate and McDowell outvoting Democrats Adelstein and Copps.
Martin was under constant pressure to delay the vote until 2008, but Martin persisted to change the rule that has stood for more than 30 years. For a company to be eligible to own a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market, there must be at least eight media outlets in the market, and if the transaction involves a television station, it can't be one of the four largest stations in that market. Outside the top 20 markets, companies can apply for a rule waiver, but the applicant must prove that allowing the cross ownership will be in the public interest.
Many senators have already stated their opposition to the rule change, threatening to withhold funding or to pass legislation to block the rule. Previous FCC attempts to change the ownership rules were challenged in court, and the FCC lost. It is likely that this rule change will also be challenged in court.