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Capital Cities / Abc's Murphy Criticizes Agency : End Of Fcc's 3-year Rule Assailed

July 16, 1987|JAY SHARBUTT | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The Federal Communications Commission went "too far" in ending its rule that radio and TV stations must be owned at least three years before they can be sold for a profit, says the head of Capital Cities/ABC Inc.

The result, says board chairman Thomas Murphy, is that persons with no background in or dedication to broadcasting--"just professional financial people"--have been "buying and selling stations like they were buying and selling cows.

"And we're not in favor of that. We think that's gone too far," said Murphy, whose own broadcasting company, Capital Cities Communications, took over ABC in January, 1986.

Despite his criticism, however, Murphy did not urge restoration of the FCC's three-year rule.

He expressed his views in an interview published this week in AFTRA, the magazine of the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. That 67,000-member union, representing both performers and on-air journalists, is scheduled to begin its annual convention today in St. Louis.

The FCC's three-year requirement for station ownership ended in 1982, when, under the deregulation program of then-FCC chairman Mark Fowler, the rule was dropped--although two specific situations still require a year's ownership.

Now in most cases, although as a practical matter it probably wouldn't happen, a radio or TV station can be bought one day and sold the next.

Despite his strong criticism of that, Murphy endorsed the agency's change of another rule that previously put a seven-station limit on the number of TV stations that one company can own.

The new limit is 12, provided the stations' total share of the national viewing audience doesn't exceed 25% of that audience, the FCC says.

"That's a rule (change) I happen to agree with because it helped us make the deal with ABC," Murphy said.

When Capital Cities acquired ABC, the merged companies wound up with a total of eight TV stations--four of which, including KABC-TV in Los Angeles, were owned by ABC before the takeover. As part of the deal, ABC had to sell a fifth station it owned in Detroit to comply with FCC rules.

In the AFTRA interview, Murphy said he felt the FCC's old three-year station ownership requirement "was a fundamentally sound rule, and it should not have been changed.

"It was sound not because it protected the 'ins' and kept other people out, but because it made people thoughtful about entering into the commitment that's involved in being a broadcaster.

"Otherwise, it's a little bit like a wedding chapel in Las Vegas. . . . "

Murphy was not available for further comment Wednesday on whether he wanted a restoration of the FCC's three-year ownership requirement or at least a minimum period of time a station must be owned before its sale.

"I don't think he's prepared to ask for legislation (restoring the FCC rule)," said Patty Matson, a Capital Cities/ABC spokeswoman. "But he is concerned about the lifting of the rule."

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