FCC reinstates ownership exemption

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The Federal Communications Commission Monday reinstated an exemption
shielding partial stakes in broadcast stations and cable systems from being
attributed toward minority shareholders' ownership tallies when another owner
controls more than one-half of the outstanding equity.

The so-called single-majority shareholder exemption was designed to protect
partial investments from counting toward limits on broadcast-audience reach and
multichannel-subscriber share.

The exemption was eliminated for cable in 1999 and for broadcasters earlier
this year.

In March, the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ordered the FCC to
either explain better why the cable exemption was eliminated or to reinstate it
as part of a larger decision ordering the FCC to rework the 30 percent limit on
a cable company's share of pay TV subscribers.

Monday's action -- technically a suspension of the earlier elimination -- was
meant to comply with the court order and to make broadcast policy consistent
with cable rules.

Democratic commissioner Michael Copps criticized the decision to reinstate
the broadcast exemption.

The court decision 'did not address any rules governing broadcast ownership
or attribution,' he said. 'No one would assert that broadcast stations and
cable-television systems have converged to the point that they are subject to
the same regulatory scheme.'

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