FCC delays cross-ownership review

Powell yanks item off agenda after disagreements emerge

WASHINGTON — A divided Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday temporarily called off reviewing a cross-ownership rule banning a broadcaster from owning a newspaper in the same market.

Late last week, the FCC announced it would commence such a review at Thursday’s meeting. Item was subsequently yanked from the agenda when new FCC chair Michael Powell ran into problems with FCC commissioners Harold Furchtgott-Roth and Gloria Tristani.

Furchtgott-Roth, a Republican and avid deregulator, apparently didn’t think the language describing the review went far enough in advocating that the regulation be overturned.

Conversely, Tristani, a Democrat, thought the language too strong in favoring the rule’s repeal.

Powell opted to postpone the review until that date when he has the necessary votes to launch the review. Ultimately, it’s widely expected that the rule will be overturned by the Republican-controlled FCC. Both as a commissioner and now as chair, Powell has opposed the cross-ownership rule on its face.

As of now, however, Powell is forced to work with a 2-2 split on the commission, pending the confirmation of new commissioners recently nominated by President Bush to replace Furchtgott-Roth and FCC commissioner Susan Ness, as well as to fill a third vacant seat.

Delay of the cross-ownership review isn’t expected to affect the FCC’s pending action on News Corp.’s purchase of Chris Craft. News Corp. is seeking a waiver of the cross-ownership rule, since the merger will give it two daily newspapers and a TV station in New York.

FCC is still expected to vote on the deal in the next two weeks.