The FCC Rules at a Glance

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June 2003

The FCC's rulings are as follows:

  • The prohibition on media cross-ownership was removed. The rule forbidding a company from owning a newspaper as well as TV and radio stations in a single market was eliminated. Now, cross-ownership can occur in most larger markets having more than eight television stations.
  • A single broadcaster can now own stations that collectively reach 45 percent of the nationís TV households. This cap is up from 35 percent in the previous rule. Each companyís potential audience is raised to about 48.2 million from 37.5 million. However the actual ownership levels may be higher. The new rules rely on an old formula that only counts half the homes in a market against the total for UHF stations. This was a holdover from the days before cable and satellite, when many viewers found it difficult to receive weak UHF signals.
  • Broadcasters can now own two TV stations in midsize markets, or those with at least five stations before the merger. Also allowed will be ownership of three stations in major markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In either case, only one of the merged stations can be among the four most highly rated in the market. The result could increase in the numbered duopolies (currently 86) now in some markets. The change permits duopolies in 70 to 100 more markets.
  • The Dual Network Rule was retained. Adopted in 2001, it prevents a company from owning more than one of the Big Four networks: ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.
  • Radio market boundary lines have been redrawn to prevent extraordinary concentrations of ownership. Though existing ownership if grandfathered, the chain of continued concentrated station ownership will be broken.