McCorkindale Says Cross-Ownership Resolution Could Take 2 Years

By: (AP) The chief executive of Gannett Co., the largest newspaper publisher in the country, said Tuesday he expects a resolution of debates over rules governing ownership of newspapers and television stations to take up to two more years.

Douglas McCorkindale told investors and analysts on a conference call to discuss the company's first-quarter earnings that he didn't see a way to accelerate the "morass that we're in."

Media companies are currently waiting to see whether the Supreme Court will review a lower court ruling that blocked the Federal Communication Commission's move in 1993 to loosen rules on owning a newspaper and television station in the same city.

McCorkindale said the current view was about "50/50" that the high court would hear the case. Otherwise it goes back to the FCC for further consideration.

In the meantime, McCorkindale said the uncertainty over the rule changes has had a "dampening" effect on discussions about potential acquisition deals. He said he expects a resolution to take another 18 months to two years, although he added that "I hope I'm wrong."

Separately, J. Stewart Bryan III, Media General Inc.'s chief executive, told analysts on that company's conference call that he was "hopeful" the Supreme Court would take the case.

Gannett and Media General own both television stations and newspapers, and would benefit from the ownership rules being loosened, as would Tribune Co., which owns television stations as well as a portfolio of major newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Newsday of New York's Long Island.

Consumer advocates have opposed the FCC's drive to loosen media-ownership rules, saying it would increase the concentration of media ownership, giving a handful of large companies greater power over print media and the airwaves.


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