STRANGE BEDFELLOWS9/10/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern
TV networks and civil-rights groups are showing rare unity by endorsing the FCC's plan to ease dual-network restrictions to let the Big 4 networks acquire UPN or the WB.
The rule change is necessary if Viacom is to keep control of UPN now that it has acquired CBS, and Viacom's financial support for UPN is essential because the minority-targeted network will lose roughly $90 million this year.
The Minority Media Telecommunications Council-which often opposes deregulation-backed the revision because "a duopolized UPN is better than a dead UPN." Two networks-Fox and The WB-backed the rule change to win support for additional deregulation. FOX wants to eliminate the cap on station ownership, and The WB, owned by Time Warner, wants to eliminate the ban on same-market TV/cable crossownership.