COURT CHALLENGES FCC ON 'DUOPOLY' RESTRICTIONS

Rules Limit Same-Company Ownership of TV Stations

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- In the latest blow to Federal Communications Commission media consolidation restrictions, the U.S. Appellate Court for the District of Columbia today ordered the agency to review its local TV station "duopoloy" restrictions.

The same three-judge panel on Feb. 19 overturned a cross-ownership rule that barred cable companies from owning TV stations in the same market and ordered the FCC to justify a rule that limits a single broadcaster from owning TV stations reaching more than 35% of the national audience.

FCC duopoly rules

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currently place limits on a single company's ability to own two TV stations in small- to midsize markets. In smaller markets with fewer than eight independent TV stations, the rules have prevented consolidations.

But today the court charged that the FCC had failed to provide adequate justification for that policy.

The latest case was brought by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which alleged that the duopoly rules were a violation of First Amendment rights.

In a statement today, Sinclair president-CEO David Smith, generally praised the decision.

"The court's decision validates what we have been saying all along; that the rules governing television ownership are outdated, without basis, and anti-competitive in today's media environment," Mr. smith said. "We are pleased that the court has found the rule arbitrary. We are evaluating our options and are hopeful that the FCC and courts will respond in a manner that will allow over-the-air television to remain competitive with other forms of media."

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