Washington -- Federal Communications Commission member Jonathan Adelstein
Tuesday blasted broadcast-ownership changes proposed by FCC chairman Michael
Powell, claiming that they would trigger a media-merger wave that is opposed by
"We're likely to witness a tsunami of mergers -- an unprecedented wave of
consolidation," Adelstein said in a speech here to the Media Institute, where
the audience included plenty of lobbyists from corporations favoring Powell's
Adelstein, a Democrat, claimed that public opinion strongly opposed more
media consolidation. If the FCC relaxed the rules too much, he warned that the
public might soon insist that the FCC impose content safeguards and other
regulatory steps to combat TV sex and violence.
"We have in our hands a lit match, and we're moving closer to a powder keg of
public anger that may be about to explode," he added.
On June 2, the Republican-controlled FCC is expected to vote on a plan that,
as of today, would allow one company to own three TV stations in the largest
markets and two TV stations in the other markets.
The plan is also expected to largely abolish the ban on ownership of a
newspaper and a TV station or radio station in the same market.
In his speech, Adelstein also questioned a proposal to allow TV-station
groups to reach 45% of TV households nationally, up from 35%. At a minimum, he
said, the cap should not rise before the FCC studies the impact on independent
programmers that complain that they are having trouble selling shows to the four
major broadcast networks.
He also highlighted problems with raising the 35% cap without changing the
so-called UHF discount, which counts two UHF TV households as one for purposes
of the 35% cap.
In theory, a company with nothing but UHF stations could reach 90% of TV
households under a 45% cap. With many UHF stations reaching their viewers over
cable, Adelstein argued that the rationale for the UHF discount -- namely, that
UHF stations did not have the power to reach as many homes as VHF stations --
has largely disappeared.
"If the whole purpose of this exercise is to update our rules in light of
technological developments, we cannot ignore some just because we don't like the
outcome of more stringent limits," he said.