By: Todd Shields

Powell May Lead To End Of Cross-Ownership Ban

WASHINGTON – He spices official documents with mentions of
the Grinch and the Lone Ranger. He makes no secret of his
admiration for the free market – and his wariness of
regulation. He’s the son of a war hero. But that’s incidental,
since he’s widely regarded as smart and diligent.

What’s not to like about Michael Powell?

Very little, say newspaper executives who laud the 37-year-old
Republican’s appointment to the chairmanship of the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC). They hope Powell, a three-year
FCC veteran, will help kill the profit-suppressing rule that
keeps newspapers from buying TV stations.

“I think he is the right choice, and I’m delighted,” said John
F. Sturm, president of the Newspaper Association of America.

Powell replaces Democrat William E. Kennard, a proponent of the
cross-ownership rule who stepped down as the Clinton
administration ended Jan. 19. Powell, a critic of the cross-
ownership rule, was named chairman Jan. 22 – the first
business day of President Bush’s administration. Industry
leaders say the prompt appointment opens the way for a speedy
regulatory review at the FCC.

Top of the list for newspapers is the 1975 rule barring common
ownership of a newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same
market. Roughly two dozen newspaper/TV combinations now exist,
most of them grandfathered-in because they were in place when
the rule went into effect. Some could be headed for a forced
sale if the rule is not modified or eliminated.

Powell last June called for the FCC to review the rule, which
aims to ensure a diversity of voices. It was written before
expansions of cable and satellite TV brought new voices to
consumers. Such changes, Powell said, may have “eviscerated the
need for what is an extremely prohibitive regulation.”

Powell, who is the son of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell,
needs no Senate confirmation. Until a fifth commission member is
appointed to replace Kennard, he leads a body split 2-to-2
between Republicans and Democrats.

Todd Shields ( is the Washington editor for E&P.

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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