Emboldened by a federal court decision limiting the FCC's power to establish cable ownership limits, a host of media companies are asking judges and the FCC to strike down other ownership rules.
- Just last week Sinclair Broadcasting told the federal appeals court in Washington that it will challenge the FCC's "duopoly" rule, which bars a company from buying a second TV station in a market if fewer than eight separately owned stations remain after the acquisition. Sinclair says the test advances no government interest to override the company's free-speech rights. Sinclair, which would be forced to exit six of its 18 local marketing agreements, also called the rule an unconstitutional taking of property.
- Fox, NBC and Viacom are suing to eliminate the 35% cap on broadcast-audience reach. They say that cap is less justified than the cable limit because TV stations face many local competitors, whereas cable systems are the dominant-and, in some markets, the only-providers of pay TV. They point out in their court pleading that the agency itself moved to eliminate broadcast ownership limits in 1984, but Congress said no.
- Time Warner is challenging what is effectively the FCC's ban on cable-system ownership of local TV stations. By forbidding a cable system to carry any broadcast-TV station in a market if it owns a station in that market, the FCC has violated free-speech rights, too, the company says.
- Finally, Paxson, NBC and Viacom are demanding the FCC restore an exemption that shields partial investments in TV stations from ownership tallies when another investor controls 51% or more of the stock. The so-called "single-majority shareholder" rule was eliminated Jan. 19, former Chairman William Kennard's last day in office. The companies argue that the exemption must be restored because its elimination was justified solely on the grounds that a similar break for cable investments had been removed previously. On March 2, however, the court ordered the cable exemption restored, citing inadequate defense of its deletion.
Pressing the fight
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