Regulatory Reform: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Fcc Media Ownership Rules

29 Pages Posted: 13 May 2003


The Federal Communications Commission has regulated ownership of mass media outlets since the 1920s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 abolished some of these regulations, changed others, and required the FCC to review its rules regularly and to repeal those no longer required.

There is little opposition to the idea that media ownership policy should promote economic competition (to increase the economic welfare of consumers) and First Amendment values (to preserve the political freedom of citizens).

This paper examines, from an economic perspective, federal administrative restrictions on ownership of media properties, including both antitrust and First Amendment policy bases for the rules. It concludes that the present rules are duplicative of antitrust law enforcement and should therefore be abolished as wasteful of public resources and a burden on consumer welfare. It argues that First Amendment goals are not threatened by abolition.

Keywords: mass media ownership, FCC media regulation, First Amendment policy, antitrust in media industries, Merger Guidelines, television broadcasting, radio broadcasting, newspaper publishing, cable television, horizontal concentration, vertical restraints, market definition, concentration measures, radio spectrum, scarcity doctrine

Suggested Citation

Owen, Bruce M., Regulatory Reform: The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Fcc Media Ownership Rules. Law Review of Michigan State University-Detroit College of Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Bruce M. Owen (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

366 Galvez Street
Stanford, CA 94305-6015
United States


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