Convergence controversy

The FCC is once again talking about changing the rules that prevent companies from owning a TV station and a newspaper in the same town. But, according to the New York Times, the rule change might actually force some companies to sell off a TV station or newspaper in the same town. Here’s why:

In 1975, the commission adopted a rule that generally restricted a company from owning both a newspaper and a station in the same city. Many companies that already had such holdings at the time, including The New York Times Company, which owns a radio station in Manhattan, were unaffected because of a grandfather clause.

Since then, some companies have received what are supposed to be temporary waivers until new rules are adopted. Most media companies are operating under a waiver, the grandfather clause or both. Those waivers are reviewed any time a station changes hands.

Mr. Martin’s plan would enable a media company to own both a newspaper and either a radio or smaller television station in the nation’s 20 largest markets. If the company owns a TV station, then there must be at least eight independent TV stations and newspapers in the same market.

Companies like Gannett and Media General, which own a newspaper and a TV station in some small markets without eight competitors, would be forced to sell one of their properties or get an exemption from the FCC. The FCC chairman has indicated those exemptions would be rare.

A vote on the new FCC plan is set for December 18 unless Congress makes a move to block it.

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