FCC’s Powell Sees Long Road for Media Rules
December 2, 2004
By Jeremy Pelofsky, Reuters
WASHINGTON -- New U.S. media ownership rules would likely take up to seven years to establish, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell said on Thursday.
"I think, sadly, it's going take a good five to seven years to get it untangled and settled again," Powell said at the Practicing Law Institute's annual telecommunications policy and regulation conference.
"I don't mean any one proceeding, I just mean a reestablishment of both a framework and a national consensus about what it ought to be," he said.
The FCC tried last year to relax some of the regulations to reflect the growth of the industry but ran into objections from both Congress and the courts.
The agency tried to allow television networks to own more stations, permit companies to have more TV stations in a single market, and lift a ban that prevented companies from owning a newspaper, TV stations and radio outlets in a market.
Congress tightened one of those rules, limiting the networks to owning stations that collectively reach 39 percent of the national audience. And in June a federal appeals court put the other rules on hold, saying the agency needed to better justify the limits set.
The FCC has until early January to decide whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The agency has struggled for several years to craft media ownership rules that could sustain scrutiny by the courts.
The judges agreed the FCC was correct to lift the cross-ownership ban but questioned the restrictions it set.
"I think the regret is not that the rules weren't put in place, but only that I think it's now created a fairly chaotic and confused media environment at a time that I think is going to be really troubling to the industry and consumers," Powell told the conference.
Tribune Co., which owns newspapers and television stations and has said it wants to own both in a single market, has so far unsuccessfully pleaded with the appeals court to lift the ban on cross-ownership.