Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell hinted that
broadcast-ownership rules could be changed, but stopped short of saying he would
eliminate them entirely.
Powell, speaking at the Goldman Sachs & Co. Communacopia conference in
New York, said, 'Most of the media-ownership rules are old and media ownership
has changed dramatically.'
Powell said most of the rules, created in the 1970s, do not take into
consideration the current landscape, which offers consumers much more choice
through cable, satellite and broadcast mediums.
Powell also referred to a series of studies his agency is conducting to
evaluate the current broadcast rules, which should be completed in the
'I am not arguing that there should be no media rules,' Powell said. 'I am
not prepared to argue that any one of them definitely should go. What I am
arguing is that they be conducted with intellectual honesty and rigor, an honest
evaluation of the empirical and factual data that present itself, and being
conscious enough to craft rules around what it tells us and not what we wish it
Powell added that the courts demand that a regulatory agency substantiate the
value of its choices -- a mandate that becomes more acute when it involves an
area with First Amendment implications.
'Those [broadcast-ownership] rules, if I do nothing, will be dead soon,'
Powell said at the conference. 'They will not survive the judicial process.'
Powell also addressed the state of the telecommunications market since the
Telecommunications Act of 1996, adding that in the current environment,
government must take clear steps, including 'ruthlessly rooting out corporate
fraud,' restoring financial soundness to the industry and spurring federal and
state policy makers to implement reform.
Powell did not address two current mega-mergers currently before his industry
-- AT&T Broadband-Comcast Corp. and EchoStar Communications Corp.-DirecTV
Inc. -- but he added that all mergers will be judged on their benefits.
'This commission will block transactions that it deems anti-competitive and
will hurt consumers,' Powell said. 'No transaction can or will be deemed
unthinkable before the application is even filed at the FCC. This commission
will review mergers on their merits, and not attempt to shape the `right
industry structure' through public musings.'