Decades-old rules restricting media ownership are dead. A single company may now own TV stations that reach 45 percent of U.S. households, under rules adopted last week by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC also said owners may have two TV stations in one city (three in megalopolises like New York and L.A.). Owners may also publish a newspaper and own a TV station in the same city.
Leading Democrats oppose the change, even though it might work in their favor. Michael Copps, a Democratic commissioner, says the new rules empower "a new media elite" that controls programming.
Yet centralized corporate media tends to be establishment-liberal and sympathetic to Democrats-as the history of the major networks, CNN, and the big newspaper chains shows. More conservative media, like The Washington Times, Manchester (N.H.) Union-Leader, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, are independently operated.
Also, the Democrats' least favorite media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, testified last month that he plans no media buying spree other than his announced takeover of the DirecTV satellite service. Recent mergers allow his Fox television chain to reach over 35 percent of the U.S. population.
FCC chairman Michael Powell says now that media have new outlets like cable, satellite, and the Internet, there's less cause for concern that one player will dominate local opinion.