Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell took to the airwaves Sunday morning, saying on ABC's "This Week" that easing rules on media ownership would help over-the-air broadcasters compete with satellite and cable outlets for an increasingly fragmented audience.
The commission will vote today on a proposal to modify regulations that would let companies such as Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times, News Corp. and Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, buy more TV stations or newspapers.
Critics say that easing the rules would lead to fewer independent programs and news sources.
"We're trying to strengthen the foundations of free over-the-air television," Powell said. "Increasingly, we see the flight of quality programming from free TV to pay TV."
The rule changes would allow a media company to own newspapers and multiple TV stations in the same market.
Investors have been betting that the result would be greater advertising revenue and lower costs for media companies, sending shares of Tribune, News Corp., Knight Ridder Inc., Gannett Co. and E.W. Scripps Co. to one-year highs in the last week.