The Federal Communications Commission plans to tighten its regulations that limit how many broadcast TV stations a single company can own in any one market.
The rules are intended to promote competition and ensure that viewers have access to a diverse range of views in the media. But Republicans are expected to oppose the move, warning it could force some local TV stations out of business.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a proposal Thursday that would crack down on "joint sales agreements," in which one TV station sells ads for another. TV broadcasters argue the deals allow struggling stations to share costs.
But FCC officials concluded that the arrangements undermine the agency's media-ownership rules by allowing one station to control or influence another. Under Wheeler's proposal, any station that sells 15 percent or more of the ads for another station would count as owning that station for purposes of the agency's media-ownership cap.
FCC rules bar any company from owning more than one of the top four stations in a market.
In a statement, Wheeler said that treating the joint-sales deals as ownership is "simply recognizing reality."
Wheeler's proposal would also bar TV stations from banding together as a group when they negotiate with cable providers. Cable companies have complained about the increasing fees they have to pay to offer broadcast TV channels. The chairman's staff concluded that joint negotiations by broadcasters have increased costs for cable providers, leading to higher bills for consumers.