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Court lifts ban on media ownership restrictions

  Business  -   POSTED: 2010/03/24 13:10

A federal court has at least temporarily lifted government rules that blocked media companies from owning a newspaper and a broadcast TV station in the same market.

The decision Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit lifts the Federal Communications Commission's "cross-ownership" ban.

That restriction had remained in effect under a stay issued by the court in 2003 as it has tried to sort out legal challenges to attempts by two previous FCC chairmen, Republicans Michael Powell and Kevin Martin, to relax the rules.

The decision comes as the current FCC, now under Democratic control, gears up for its next congressionally mandated review of its media ownership rules. Those rules, which the agency must review every four years, include the cross-ownership ban and limits on the number of television and radio stations that one company can own in a market.

In the meantime, some media companies already own newspapers and television stations in the same market because they were grandfathered in when the rules were first put into place in 1974.

The current court case began when Powell tried to lift the cross-ownership ban in large media markets and raise the caps on TV and radio station ownership. That effort drew legal challenges from public interest groups that said he had gone too far and from media companies that said he had not gone far enough.

The Third Circuit sent the matter back to FCC, telling it to rewrite the rules. And that led Powell's successor, Martin, to try to ease the cross-ownership ban in big media markets — drawing more legal challenges from both sides.


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