Mel Karmazin knows that even the smallest rule changes can get amplified in
the deal market, but he still isn't looking for a stampede following the Federal
Communications Commission's expected June 2 decision to loosen media-ownership
The Viacom Inc. president recalled Friday that when the FCC last relaxed TV-station-ownership rules back in August 1999, Karmazin, then CEO of CBS,
"The first phone call I made was to [Viacom chairman] Sumner [Redstone]. The second was to Chris-Craft [Industries Inc.]."
News Corp. wound up snagging Chris-Craft's New York and Los Angeles stations,
creating lucrative duopolies, but the call to Redstone
led to Viacom's takeover of CBS.
"When the TV-duopoly rule changed, that enabled Viacom to get done," Karmazin
Karmazin doesn't expect such dramatic deals this time around, though.
Newspaper companies will start buying TV stations in the same market, he
said, but stations probably won't start buying newspapers. Certainly Viacom
won't. "The growth rate would slow down the rest of the company," he added.
As for what he does expect, Karmazin is "majorly disappointed."
He said he was hoping for things that probably no other media executive would
say with a straight face: Elimination of the dual-network rule, for one, which
bars one company from owning two of the top four broadcast networks.
He also bristled at a rule barring duopolies between the top four stations in
As for the 45% ownership limit: "I don't think there should be any cap at
all. It should be more like radio," he said.