Senate OKs So-Called Compromise on TV Ownership Limit

One way to shove somewhat unpopular legislation through Congress is to buy it in a bil ol’ omnibus spending bill, since failure to pass such a beast really mucks up the Washington works. So that’s how a compromise TV ownership limit rule got passed by the Senate yesterday.

The compromise limit places a 39% cap on the number of US TV households and one company can reach with the stations it owns. The old limit was 35% and the new limit that the FCC gifted to the big TV networks.

Conveniently, the new 39% limit, while seeming like it’s still better than 45% because it’s less, allows CBS/Viacom and FOX/News Corp. to hold onto a bunch of stations they would otherwise had to sell off, because they’d gambled and acquired more stations than they were allowed.

Of course, they were hedging their bets, because CBS and FOX figured they could jimmy the FCC into raising the limit in their favor, and they were right.

Thus, this co-called compromise is no compromise at all. It’s like asking for 10% raise when you know that realistically you’ll only need 5%.

On yesterday’s Democracy Now, Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy was on briefly and made a direct connection between CBS needing the Republican gift of a higher TV cap and the network’s refusal to run’s anti-Bush advertisement during the Super Bowl:

“This provision is a big Bush administration and GOP give away to two of the most powerful media companies and political allies. In the case of Rupert Murdoch, it allows Viacom CBS and Murdoch’s News Corp Fox to hold the number of stations they presently own. They would have been forced to sell if this provision hadnÂ’t been worked out in a backroom deal by the White House. It’s not surprising that early this week, CBS refused to sell an ad to in the Super Bowl that was going to be critical of the Bush administration. …”

“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” is not a hard concept for anyone to get. In the world of broadcasting and politics don’t let anyone tell you it’s not about quid pro quo.






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