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FCC Eases Media Ownership Restrictions

U.S. media regulators have eased restrictions on media ownership, allowing companies to expand their reach over American broadcast and newspaper audiences.

The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, voted for the changes Monday, despite opponents who said relaxing restrictions on media ownership would hurt local and independent coverage of news and information and ultimately undermine the democratic process.

But FCC chairman Michael Powell argued that the restrictive laws predated the proliferation of independent voices on cable television and the Internet. He told the ABC television network Sunday that the new rules would help make media outlets more economically viable.

Mr. Powell and two other Republican members of the board favored the changes. Two other board members, both Democrats, opposed them.

The new rules allow a single company to own television stations with 45 percent of the national audience. Current rules restrict that percentage to 35.

They also lift restrictions on a single company owning a combination of broadcast stations and newspapers in the same city, including a ban on a company owning more than two stations in the same market. Some restrictions will remain in smaller media markets.

Opponents of the measures say they will reduce Americans' access to a broad variety of viewpoints and lead to a dangerous homogeneity of news coverage. Those who opposed the plans include CNN founder Ted Turner, who argued that CNN would never have been possible under such conditions, and the powerful lobbying group, the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Powell dismissed those concerns in his interview with ABC, saying he did not expect a frenzy of media mergers.