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FCC appears likely to ease media-ownership rules

Unlike previous attempts to ease rules against media firms owning newspapers and TV or radio stations in the same market, the latest proposal faces little opposition.

November 06, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times

Before Tribune can emerge from bankruptcy protection, the FCC must transfer the company's 24 broadcast TV and radio station licenses to the new owners. As part of the process, Tribune is seeking waivers for cross-ownership in Los Angeles, Chicago, South Florida and Hartford, Conn.

In December, the FCC solicited public comment on a proposal to issue automatic waivers for some cross-ownership of newspapers with either a television station or a radio station in the nation's top 20 media markets. The proposal provides other procedures as well, including the possibility of allowing combinations without review or waiver.

Despite the FCC's efforts, the industry already is moving away from consolidation. Companies with newspapers and broadcast stations are splitting in two and often selling the papers.

In June, for example, Media General Inc. sold nearly all its newspapers — 63 daily and weekly publications — to a subsidiary of billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. This month, Media General sold its last and largest newspaper, the Tampa Tribune.

The company, which had FCC waivers for newspaper-broadcast combinations in several markets, said it wanted to focus on its more valuable broadcast stations and websites.

News Corp. said this summer it planned to split its entertainment and publishing operations into separate companies, although the proposed FCC rules may still apply because the new firms would have the same owners.

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