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FCC retains media cross-ownership rules

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to keep in place its rules that prohibit media companies from owning newspapers and TV or radio stations in the same market, rejecting lobbying from the newspaper industry, that argues the limits are outdated.

In 1975, the FCC, seeking to ensure diversity of voices and opinion in local media, passed the current cross-ownership rules. The FCC reviews the rules every four years, and media companies have fought for years to change or relax them to pursue business diversification. Media companies argue that the rules are no longer effective given that consumers now have a multitude of news options in the digital era. The FCC voted Wednesday to keep the rules.

“The decision is deeply disappointing,” David Chavern, CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, said in a statement Thursday. “Newspapers continue to be the only industry barred by regulation from investment by owners of local broadcast companies, many who are equally committed to local journalism as the local newspaper.”

In its latest review, the FCC has devised a new exception to the rules that allows a “failed or failing newspaper” to tie up with invest in a broadcast business in the same market.

But “that is completely meaningless,” Chavern said. “Requiring newspapers to fail or be close to failing before they can draw much needed investment from broadcasters is a ‘too little, too late’ recipe that will never be pursued given the low barrier entry for news on digital and mobile platforms,” Chavern said.  ‘

Currently, the FCC allows a media company to own multiple TV stations nationwide so long as its market share nationwide doesn’t exceed 39%. A company can also own up to two TV stations in the same market if one of the them is not ranked among the top four in the market.

The FCC also bars a merger between any two of the four major broadcast TV networks: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC

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