Powell: Judges key to survival of national cap

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Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell isn't brimming with confidence that the new national cap on TV-station ownership will survive legal challenges.

"This is a rule I'm quite concerned about in the court," he conceded to
lawmakers Wednesday.

Although federal judges ordered a review of the previous 35% cap on TV-household reach after finding that number poorly reasoned, Powell said the new
45% limit is based on a little guesswork, too.

"We believe we could modify the cap and get deference on the lines we drew,"
he told the Senate Commerce Committee.

Powell said the FCC had determined that a 40% cap
would be too low because Fox and CBS already exceed that level and their
affiliates retain sufficient market power to reject network programming they
don't want.

Nevertheless, FCC research showed that raising the limit too high would give the
networks unacceptable leverage to reduce affiliates' pre-emption rights.

FCC Media Bureau chief Ken Ferree expressed similar reservations over a
likely court challenge to the cap when the new rules were approved Monday.

"I bet we win, but I wouldn't bet a lot," he said.