B'casters Attack FCC’s Defense of TV-Duopoly Restriction

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The Federal Communications Commission’s "cursory two-paragraph" defense of its restrictions on TV duopolies fails to explain why stations should be prohibited from pairing up in most of the country’s small and midsized markets, the National Association of Broadcasters and Emmis Communications Corp. told the Federal Appeals Court in Philadelphia Monday.

The broadcasters said the FCC indicated that stations in those markets were most likely to benefit from common ownership, but the commission ignored that when it voted June 2 to prohibit an owner from controlling two or more of a market’s top four-rated stations. The restriction virtually eliminated opportunities for duopolies in most medium and small markets, where few have more than four or five stations.

"The commission acknowledges that common ownership provides substantial benefits to struggling stations in small and mid-size markets, yet defends as rational a top-four rule that precludes common ownership in almost all those markets," the broadcasters told the court.

Foes and supporters of media deregulation have taken the FCC to court to reverse broadcast ownership rule changes approved last spring. The rules have been stayed until the case is resolved. Oral argument is schedule for Feb. 11.

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