Regulation of Media Ownership by the Federal Communications Commission

An Assessment

by Stanley Besen, Leland Johnson


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This report assesses the state of current knowledge about the likely effects of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) restrictions on the ownership of broadcasting stations and cable TV systems, to reach judgments about the desirability of modifying or eliminating existing FCC ownership regulations. It examines the evidence on the effects of group ownership of broadcast stations, concentrated regional ownership, common ownership of broadcast stations within a local market, television station-cable system cross-ownership, and telephone-cable cross-ownership. The report reaches four broad conclusions: (1) Concentrated broadcast station ownership leads neither to large operating efficiencies nor to anticompetitive behavior; (2) there is little or no basis for the FCC's group ownership rules, some support exists for rules limiting regional concentration, and stronger support exists for rules that limit cross-ownership within narrow geographic areas; (3) there is no compelling basis for lifting the telephone-cable system cross-ownership ban; and (4) present FCC rules, and many of the proposals for their repeal or modification, are often deficient because they fail to take into account actual competitive conditions.

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