Viacom Allowed To Keep UPN

By Christian
May 31, 2000 - 4:10 PM

According to a report from Reuters' David Lawsky, the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday it will soon propose easing rules forbidding companies from owning more than two television networks. The FCC will now in all likelihood allow the four major television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) to own any of the two emerging TV networks (UPN and the WB).

The most immediate result of this relaxation of the rules is that Viacom, parent company of among others Paramount Pictures, will be allowed to keep UPN. After the company merged with CBS about a month ago, the FFC gave the company a year to get rid of UPN, but now this will no longer be necessary. The proposed changed in the rules will be offered in less than 90 days from now, the FCC said.

On the change, FCC chairman William Kennard said that "this dual network rule is fundamentally about promoting diversity, and it should not be eliminated as it applies to the four major networks. [But there] may be powerful arguments for modifying the rule to allow common ownership of an emerging and established network." Viacom had previously stated that, if the FCC would not change its rules, the money-losing UPN would probably be forced to close down. Due to the network's popularity among minor groups, this was not something federal regulators wanted to see happen.

With Viacom allowed to keep UPN, it is almost completely certain Series V will end up on this network as well, similarly to 'Star Trek: Voyager'. In March, UPN president Dean Valentine already said the network was talking to the Trek producers about the new show.

Even with the new rule, Viacom will still be forced to sell of some of its TV stations, as FCC rules also prohibit any company from owning television stations reaching more than 35% of the nation's TV audience. After the merger, Viacom now reaches 41% of the audience, if no stations are sold.

Even this forced sale does not seem completely certain anymore, however, as Fox and possibly NBC already announced they would be challenging this rule.

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