FCC’s Copps: I’d Block Tribune TV License Renewals

By: E&P Staff

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Michael Copps, one of two Democrats on the five-person regulatory agency, says when Tribune Co. goes private at the end of the year, it shouldn’t expect to automatically get renewal of the temporary cross-ownership waivers for its television stations.

“The Tribune (sale) would be a steep climb for me, given my history of concerns over consolidation,” Copps said at a briefing for reporters. “I do not buy into this argument that you might be considering rules changes, ergo you can’t apply the current rules to current pending applications.”

Copps also reiterated his opposition to the sale of Dow Jones & Co. to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., saying the FCC should study the deal for its impact on media diversity in New York — where News Corp. publishes the New York Post and owns two television stations — and nationally.

“In the context of the New York market, (Murdoch’s) going to own a heck of a lot of stuff up there,” he said. “I think we need to have some feel as to whether that’s entirely friendly to localism and diversity.”

But he also suggested FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who leads the Republican majority, has no interest in pursuing the deal, according to an account on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site by Corey Boles.

Murdoch is operating the TV stations and the Post on a temporary waiver from the rule against common ownership of newspaper and broadcast in the same market. Similarly, Tribune Co. has waivers to operate both newspapers and television stations in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Hartford, Conn; Chicago; New York City; and Los Angeles.

Before the $8 billion going-private deal led by Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell can be completed, Tribune needs the waivers to be renewed. Without the waivers, the papers or TV stations would have to be sold off.

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