Viacom, AT&T seek FCC cap relief


Two of the country's media giants are asking the government to suspend divestiture orders imposed as part of FCC merger approvals.

Viacom has asked the FCC to delay a May 4 deadline for identifying stations it plans to sell to get under the government's national broadcast ownership cap. In the wake of a court decision throwing out similar limits on cable ownership, Viacom argues "there is a substantial likelihood" that the cap limiting a broadcast company's TV audience reach to 35% of U.S. households will be thrown out too. Viacom's CBS, along with Fox and NBC are challenging the broadcast cap in court.

Viacom's audience reach now stands at 41%, thanks to its acquisition of CBS last year. Because of the nearing deadline, Viacom said it would seek relief from the federal appeals court in Washington unless FCC rules on the "emergency" petition by Friday, March 16. Similarly AT&T has asked the FCC to suspend its May 19 deadline for selling enough cable investments to get below the 30% cap on one company's share of pay-TV subscribers.

AT&T officials said they should not be forced to comply with the divestiture order until the FCC amends its rules to account for the court decision.
- Bill McConnell