[no suprise here]

US relaxes media ownership rules
5.15pm update
http://media.guardian.co.uk/city/story/0,7497,968982,00.html
Chris Tryhorn
Monday June 2, 2003

US regulators have waved through changes to media ownership rules that
will allow media giants such as Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to
extend their control over TV and print media.

The five-member committee of the Federal Communications Commission voted
three to two in favour of the new regime, paving the way for major
networks to snap up local TV stations and newspapers.

Broadcast networks like Fox, CBS and NBC will now be able to reach 45% of
the national audience in the US, rather than 35%.

The three commissioners who voted in favour of the changes were
Republicans; the two Democrats on the panel voted against, arguing the
relaxation of ownership would reduce diversity in the local media.

The FCC also voted to lift a ban on companies owning both a newspaper and
a television or radio station except in the smallest markets.

Another controversial measure will allow broadcasters to own three
stations in the largest US regional media markets - which are usually
defined around large cities - instead of two.

Media activists reacted with anger to the news. Jeff Chester, the
executive director of Washington-based lobby group the Center for Digital
Democracy, said the FCC had "weakened the very fabric of our democracy".

"Fewer owners of the mass media means fewer voices will be heard, fewer
opportunities for discourse and debate will be available and, ultimately,
there will be fewer options for those who seek alternative and minority
viewpoints," he said.

"A handful of companies will gain from today's decision but the public at
large will lose."

The FCC's proposed changes had already prompted a fierce backlash from
critics, who feared media giants would use their greater market share to
control news content, advertising revenues and cable rates.

Last week a campaign focusing on Mr Murdoch as "the man who wants to
control the news in America" was launched to coincide with today's
meeting. The commissioners were charged with interpreting media
legislation passed by congress in the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

There has already been extensive radio consolidation in the US following
the 1996 legislation.

Clear Channel has acquired nearly a 10th of Amercia's 13,000 stations and
syndicated content across its network.