Philly Court Keeps Radio-TV Ban


Media conglomerates are 0-for-3 when it comes to softening a major court decision that derailed media-ownership deregulation.

Federal appeals judges in Philadelphia Thursday rejected Viacom's request to lift restrictions on crossownership of TV and radio stations in the same market.

Viacom operates TV/radio combos in many markets, but Thursday's court decision won't have an immediate impact since all of the company's current TV/radio pairs comply with FCC rules that limit the combos according to market size.

"Given the Court's prior rulings on the question of ownership generally, we were not surprised by this decision," Viacom officials said in a written statement. "It maintains the status quo and has no bearing on our operations."

The limits were relaxed as part of the FCC's sweeping deregulation of broadcast ownership rules in 2003, but the Philadelphia court ordered those changes rewritten last summer. In the meantime, the previous, tighter incarnation of the rules remains in effect.

Since then, the judges have rejected industry requests to lighten specific portions of the FCC's current ownership rules.

In September, the court rejected Tribune Co.’s request to lift the FCC’s ban on cross-ownerships of a TV station and a daily newspaper in the same town. In the same decision, the court struck a blow against radio owners too.Even though most of the FCC's June 2003 revamp of ownership rules remains stayed, the court allowed the commission to go forward with the one alteration that tightened ownership restrictions somewhat. The FCC can now make radio station owners divest stations in some small markets.