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FCC considers relaxing foreign investment limit in TV and radio

(Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering relaxing the foreign investment limit in TV and radio stations as part of its review of broadcast ownership rules.

Under the current rules, there is a 25 percent cap on any foreign investment in a U.S. broadcast holding company. The FCC will discuss the agenda at its next open meeting on November 14.

"Approval of this item will clarify the commission's intention to review, on a case-by-case basis, proposed transactions that would exceed the 25 percent benchmark that restricts foreign ownership in companies holding broadcast licenses," FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a notification posted on the agency's website. (http://link.reuters.com/tum24v)

The FCC postponed its vote in February on new media-ownership rules until an outside study of an impact on minority broadcasters was complete.

On Thursday, the FCC said it will conduct a study on the Hispanic television landscape in the United States.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said he is optimistic that the agency will eliminate the foreign ownership restrictions.

"Under our rules, a foreign company can indirectly hold more than a one-quarter stake in our nation's largest wireless carriers, cable operators, cable programmers, and Internet backbone providers. Yet that company cannot own a similar interest in a single radio station in rural Kansas," Pai said.

Pai added that the "disparity makes no sense, especially considering the difficult financial circumstances facing many broadcasters."

The National Association of Broadcasters said on Thursday it welcomed the FCC move to consider foreign investment in U.S. broadcast companies the same way it considers such investments in other telecommunications properties.

"Permitting new potential sources of capital for American radio and TV stations will strengthen our ability to continue providing compelling news, entertainment and sports programming and to remain competitive in a multi-channel digital world," NAB said.

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore and Alina Selyukh in Washington D.C.; Editing by Supriya Kurane)

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