NBC and FOX officials are complaining that several large affiliates, including Tribune, Cox and Post-Newsweek, are trying to have it both ways by asking the FCC to loosen restrictions on newspaper crossownership but asking regulators not to increase the 35% cap on one company's TV household reach. "There's no way to defend that position, and it will entirely collapse," says NBC general counsel Richard Cotton.
He notes that station groups seeking to repeal the 25-year-old ban on in-market crossownership argue that the ban is outdated, given the proliferation of cable, satellite and Internet programming-the same argument his side is using to lift the ownership cap.
Affiliates, which fear losing leverage in contract negotiations if networks are allowed to own more O & Os, say the rules are necessary to protect independently owned broadcasters.
FOX Television Chairman Chase Carey scoffs at that notion. "We're not talking about small operators; we're talking about billion-dollar companies."