WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday announced plans to eliminate decades-old media ownership rules meant to protect local coverage and diversity in media voices.
The commission’s chairman, Ajit Pai, said in a congressional hearing that the agency would vote in November to roll back rules that prevent ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market. The rules were created to prevent an individual or organization from having outsize influence over public opinion.
But in the hearing, where he faced fierce criticism by Democratic lawmakers, Mr. Pai defended the plan and other deregulatory actions in recent months, saying media ownership rules were outdated. They were created 42 years ago, when newspapers and television stations dominated the media landscape, well before Facebook and Google.
“The marketplace today is nothing like it was in 1975,” Mr. Pai said.
It was the latest action by Mr. Pai, who was appointed by President Trump in January, to overhaul the media industry. Since Mr. Pai has taken the top seat at the F.C.C., his deregulatory actions have ushered in the possibility of consolidation in the broadcast television industry.
In the spring, soon after he lifted a cap on how many stations a single company can own, the Sinclair Broadcast Group announced its intention to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. The merger, which the F.C.C. and the Department of Justice are reviewing, would give Sinclair access to more than 70 percent of all television viewers in the United States. This week, the commission’s Republican majority lifted rules that required television stations owners to operate a main studio in each locality, which Mr. Pai said was unnecessary and costly for TV station owners.
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