On the eve of a major revision to broadcast-ownership rules, Federal
Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell assured the nation that the
new rules would be incremental and prevent a few companies from controlling the
"The liberalizations are relatively modest. When you actually see the rules,
you're going to wonder what all the screaming has actually been about," Powell
said Sunday on ABC News program This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
Monday at 9:30 a.m., the FCC is meeting in public to adopt a slew of new
rules that a diverse opposition coalition has called an assault on democracy by
collapsing long-standing barriers to excessive media consolidation.
"This is not a complete deregulation of the media. This is not the
elimination of our rules," Powell said when pressed by Stephanopoulos on the
impact of the changes. "I think you will see some restructuring, but I happen to
personally believe not nearly as much as some of the alarmist rhetoric would
At the meeting, the FCC is expected to raise to 45% from 35% the number of TV
households a TV-station group may reach nationally.
The agency is expected to permit, for the first time, one company to own
three TV stations in markets with at least 18 stations (roughly the top five
markets) and to allow same-market common ownership of two stations in markets
that have at least five stations (roughly the top 100 markets). Under the new
rule, none of the top four stations in a market could combine among
The other big change is substantial repeal of the ban on the common ownership
of a newspaper or a television and radio station in the same market. The rule,
adopted in 1975, would remain in effect in markets that had fewer than four TV
In coming months, the commission is expected to shift its focus to cable
ownership. On March 2, 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
remanded an FCC rule that barred one cable company from serving more than 30% of
pay TV subscribers.