Tribune, 3 Networks Plan Appeal on FCC Deregulation

By: E&P Staff Tribune Co. and three television networks plan to appeal to the Supreme Court an appeals court ruling that blocks media companies from acquiring more local TV stations and newspapers.

The Bush administration announced yesterday it would not fight the earlier ruling, which threw out the FCC's recent relaxation of media-ownership regulations.

The previous regulations, which now remain in force, prohibit a company from owning both a newspaper and a television or radio station in one market, or two television stations in the same market.

The media companies' appeal will claim that the appeals panel abridged their First Amendment and due process rights. "A cable system can own a local TV station, but a newspaper can't," said Tribune Co. spokesman Shaun Sheehan. "That's discriminatory."

News Corp.'s Fox, Viacom Inc.'s CBS, and General Electric Co.'s NBC also will ask the high court to review the case.

After a federal appeals court in June ordered the FCC to review its loosened media-ownership rules, the FCC received about 2 million critical letters. The overturned rules, passed in 2003, would have allowed a company to own in one city a daily newspaper, three TV stations, eight radio stations, and a cable system.

The ruling, The New York Times commented today, "also throws into question the future of newspapers and TV stations owned by the Tribune Company and Media General, which made acquisitions in anticipation of further deregulation. Tribune's media acquisitions in Los Angeles, New York, Hartford and South Florida would violate the old rules, as would Media General's in Florence, S.C., and Panama City, Fla. They would have to request exemptions from the F.C.C. if they were to keep all of them."

Sheehan said he was hopeful that Tribune could win waivers in Los Angeles, Chicago, and three other cities where it owns both a newspaper and a television station.


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