Tribune Seeks OK for TV-Newspaper Mergers

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(AP) Tribune Co. Wednesday asked a federal appeals court to allow mergers between newspapers and broadcast stations in markets with at least nine television stations.

The motion follows a June 24 decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturning new rules that would have lifted a blanket ban enacted in 1975 on newspaper-television cross-ownership in all markets except those with four television stations or fewer.

The court said the Federal Communications Commission was correct to reject a blanket ban on cross-ownership. Evidence showed that said such combinations can provide more and better local news and information, the court found.

But the court still blocked the FCC’s new rules, saying the agency didn’t support the specific cross-ownership limits it retained in mid-sized markets. The court found that the agency gave too much weight to the Internet as a media outlet and didn’t consider the market share as a factor.

In its filing, Tribune attorneys noted that the FCC found no limits were needed in markets with nine television stations — precisely the markets in which the company’s newspapers operate.

So blocking deregulation completely because the FCC didn’t justify the remaining limits in mid-sized markets “is now overbroad.”

“In markets with nine or more stations, the 1975 newspaper rule — kept in place by the court’s stay — needlessly violates Tribune’s and others’ First Amendment rights,” the company said in its motion.

Cheryl Leanza of the Media Access Project, one of the public interest groups that challenged the FCC’s rules in the Third Circuit, said her group will likely oppose the Tribune’s motion.

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