FCC Eliminates Attribution Rule

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Broadcasters scored a victory last Monday when the Federal Communications Commission agreed to lift an ownership restriction that, in theory, made some deals hard to complete.

In a 3-1 vote, the FCC reinstated its single-majority shareholder rule, under which a minority investment would not be attributable if a company had a single shareowner with more than 50 percent of the stock.

Under this change, one TV station company could own a 49.9 percent stake in another that had a single majority shareowner without running afoul of various FCC ownership caps that apply on both a national and local basis.

The FCC eliminated the single majority shareholder exemption for the cable industry, but in March a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the FCC's decision, saying the agency failed to justify its move.

The FCC said broadcasters and cable operators could avail themselves of the single majority shareholder exemption until the agency has completed review of its broad cable-ownership policies.

FCC commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, said extending the single majority shareholder exemption to broadcasters was unjustified.

"Broadly as it may have affected our cable ownership rules, the D.C. Circuit decision did not address any rules governing broadcast ownership or attribution," Copps said.

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