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FCC overturns media consolidation restriction

[JURIST] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] Tuesday voted to relax media ownership rules [FCC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], overturning a 32-year-old rule barring media companies from owning both a newspaper and a television station in any one of the top 20 media markets in the nation. Passed in 1975, the original rule was intended to foster competition and ensure a diversity of media voices. FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin [official profile; press statement] and two Republican panel members voted in favor of repealing the ban, while the commission's two Democrats voted against it. Numerous Congress members have opposed the change, but the White House has indicated that it will fight any Congressional attempts to overturn the FCC vote. Also Monday, the FCC approved a cap that would bar any single cable television service from holding 30 percent or more of the national pay television audience.

In 2004, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned [opinion, PDF] a previous FCC effort to relax the media ownership rules. The appeals court found the commission did not sufficiently justify or use reasoned analysis to arrive at some of the proposed rule changes. The US Supreme Court let the decision stand without comment [JURIST report]. Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps [FCC profile; press statement, PDF], who has been steadfast in his opposition to relaxing the media rules, said Martin's plan to change the rules risks another reversal by the Third Circuit. AP has more.

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