After weeks of speculation, FCC chairman Kevin Martin came out today in favor of relaxing a decades-old rule barring ownership of newspapers and TV stations in the same market. In a call to reporters and an op-ed piece in the New York Times, he said the change is needed to bolster the flagging newspaper industry; he would allow cross-ownership only in the well-diversified top 20 markets.
The owner of a newspaper would be allowed to buy a TV or radio station within the same market—but not one of the top four TV stations, and the entities would have to retain editorial independence, he said. The move would enable the $8.2 billion deal to take Tribune Corp. private, notes Tribune-owned LA Times. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has vowed to block the move—at least until the FCC completes a long-delayed study on broadcaster impact.