Abernathy: Status Quo Not an Option

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Republican Federal Communications Commission member Kathleen Abernathy said
Monday that the agency must change broadcast-media-ownership rules or the courts
will likely do it.

"Some have argued that despite the court decisions and the statutory mandate,
we should nevertheless continue to embrace the status quo. But that isn't really
an option because if we don't commit to this undertaking, our rules will most
certainly be appealed and may be remanded or vacated by the courts," Abernathy
said in a speech at New York's Museum of Television and Radio.

In recent years, federal courts have struck down five FCC media-ownership
rules, telling the agency it must justify its restrictions every two years and
either modify or repeal them.

Abernathy -- who favors at least relaxing some national and local ownership
restrictions -- said she had other, nonlegal reasons for supporting
deregulation.

She said government rules that prevent TV stations from consolidating in a
competitive market could harm their ability to transition to all-digital
broadcasting, to provide diverse programming and to continue servicing consumers
who do not subscribe to cable or direct-broadcast satellite.

"I don't want the competitive environment to drive the migration of quality
programming to cable and deprive the public of free access to sports, movies and
other entertainment. If we hold on too tightly to our current regulatory
structure in an effort to preserve broadcasting, I am afraid we just might
ensure its demise," Abernathy said.

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