Quello eyes station regs

Interim FCC chairman James Quello is willing to consider relaxing rules about TV station ownership if other FCC members agree, a Quello aide said Wednesday.

Brian Fontes, a Quello staffer, told station owners attending the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention that his boss is “ready to move” on the issue if it becomes apparent that no permanent FCC chairman will be named soon.

Toni Cook, an aide to Senate communications subcommittee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), is considered the odds-on favorite to become the new FCC chairman. However, the Clinton administration’s delay in nominating anyone has left many FCC watchers scratching their heads.

Current FCC rules bar broadcasters from either owning more than 12 TV stations or from reaching more than 25% of U.S. homes.

Fontes said Quello will “take a pulse” from key members of Congress and from commissioners Ervin Duggan and Andrew Barrett on whether the multiple ownership rules should be eased.

Radio station ownership rules were relaxed under former FCC chairman Al Sikes’ tenure, but not until after Congress insisted that his original proposal be scaled back substantially.

Fontes’ remarks drew kudos from FCC mass media bureau chief Roy Stewart. The FCC “has a responsibility to adapt its rules to changes in the marketplace,” said Stewart.

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