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Newspapers Ask FCC to Eliminate Ownership Rule on TV Stations

The Federal Communications Commission should repeal a rule that bars common ownership of a television station and daily newspaper in the same market, a trade group said.

The rule adopted in 1975 “is a relic” that undermines journalism by preventing investment from broadcasters, the Newspaper Association of America said in a filing to the agency today. The group, based in Arlington, Virginia, says it represents almost 2,000 U.S. newspapers.

The FCC proposed easing in December the rule that was put in place to preserve diverse media ownership. Approval may spur acquisitions, increasing the value of media companies such as Gannett Co., owner of television stations and newspapers including USA Today.

Consumer groups said the FCC’s proposal would concentrate too much power in the hands of large companies and limit the number of voices in a community. The FCC said some newspaper and broadcast cross-ownership restrictions are needed to preserve a diversity of viewpoints in communities.

No date has been set for the FCC vote.

This is the second proposed change in cross-ownership rules in the past four years. On July 7, a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia vacated an FCC regulation adopted in 2007 to let one owner hold a daily newspaper and a broadcast station in the largest markets. The court sent the rule back to the FCC for more consideration.

CBS Corp., Clear Channel Communications Inc., Gannett, Media General Inc. and Cox Enterprises Inc. had challenged the 2007 FCC order for failing to relax the rule further.

The current FCC restrictions aren’t helping newspapers as circulation falls, Barry Lucas, senior vice president of research at Gabelli & Co., has said.

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