NEW YORK (AP) — Federal regulators have weakened rules meant to support independent local media.
Now, one company can own newspapers and broadcast stations in one market, undoing a ban in place since 1975. Thursday's decision by the Federal Communications Commission also makes it easier for one company to own two broadcast TV stations in one market and coordinate operations with stations owned by others.
Although the changes won't affect AT&T's pending bid for Time Warner and its cable channels, they come as cable and phone companies have grown into industry giants through acquisitions. The newspaper and broadcasting industries say they need the changes to deal with growing competition from the web and cable companies.
The Republican-dominated FCC approved the changes in a 3-2 vote along party lines. The two Democratic commissioners and other critics say that dumping these rules, by encouraging consolidation, hurts media diversity. Free Press, a group that opposes media mergers, said Thursday that it will challenge the rule changes in court.
"This act will pave the way for massive broadcast conglomerates to increasingly provide local viewers with nationalized cookie-cutter news and corporate propaganda that's produced elsewhere," said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat.