FCC: Ownership review on schedule - Broadcasting & Cable

FCC: Ownership review on schedule

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The Federal Communications Commission will complete its review of six
media-ownership rules by June 2, period. But don't look for every rule to be
changed and don't expect a return of financial-interest restrictions, either.

That was the majority message from the FCC, including its chairman, at the
National Association of Broadcasters' convention in Las Vegas.

Media Bureau chief Ken Ferree said in a panel session, "There will be no
delay. June 2 is the date."

The FCC has been under some congressional pressure to loosen that deadline to
allow for more public comment on the rules or on a new "diversity index" the
commission wants to use to determine who gets regulatory relief.

But FCC chairman Michael Powell pointed out at the Chairman's Breakfast
session that the FCC has to review its rules every two years and it is already late
with this review.

For his part, FCC commissioner Michael Copps said he is uneasy about Powell's
plan to get the media-ownership rules done in the next two months: "I do not
look forward to voting on the issues without first asking the question," he
said.

The review will not be a wholesale scrapping of the regulations, Powell told
interviewer Sam Donaldson at the breakfast Monday morning.

"You should not look for the elimination of all of the rules," Powell told the
ABC newsman.

He also said not to look for a revival of the financial-syndication rules, which checked
the networks' ability to profit from the shows on their air.

"Those issues are bigger than what is in this ownership proceeding," he
said.

He did say he would review the issue, just as he is obligated to review all
issues that come across his desk.

Some independent producers have been asking the FCC to set aside 25 percent
of network's prime-time for independently produced programming, saying that
since the scrapping of the rules, the networks have dominated the airwaves with
programs in which they have financial interests.

Powell gave small- and medium-market broadcasters some encouragement, saying
the commission has been looking closely at the potential effects of deregulation
on their markets.

Those small- and medium-market broadcasters want the FCC to further relax TV-duopoly rules because owning more stations in a market eases economic pressures
on smaller stations.

With regard to a family hour -- for which Copps and commissioner Kevin Martin
have been pressing the broadcast networks -- Powell said, "I get queasy when the
government is the editor," indicating that he is unlikely to support any renewed
push.

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