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FCC Refuses to Lift Broadcast Cap for Viacom

Television: In an appeal to suspend the 35% limit, company cites a court's ruling on cable ownership.

March 17, 2001|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission refused an appeal Friday by Viacom Inc. to lift its rule limiting broadcast ownership to 35% of the national audience, after a court threw out similar limits on cable ownership.

Viacom acquired CBS Corp. in May and with it television stations that increased the company's total reach to 41% of the national audience. The FCC ordered Viacom to come into compliance with the cap within 12 months.

However, the company argued in a petition filed last week that a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia striking down a 30% cable ownership limit justified suspending the broadcast cap pending judicial review.

"Denial of interim relief would inflict irreparable injury on Viacom by causing the company to lose unique and irreplaceable assets," Viacom said in its petition seeking a stay of the order to sell assets by May 4. Viacom has a legal challenge pending against the broadcast ownership limit.

The company had to prove to the FCC that either it, other parties or the public interest would face irreparable harm if the order were not suspended.

"We conclude that it has failed to demonstrate that a postponement is justified," the FCC said in its order denying Viacom's petition.

The FCC voted 3 to 1 with Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a Republican, dissenting.

"We intend to file with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for a stay motion," said Viacom spokeswoman Karen Zatorski.

Viacom's Class A stock closed down $1.61 at $46.12 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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