WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday to reverse a 2016 decision that limits the number of television stations some broadcasters can buy.
The decision could lead to a possible acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc of Tribune Media Co, some Democrats in Congress said.
Tribune did not discuss any tie up, but said in a statement the FCC decision "will serve the important interest of localism by enabling broadcasters to better serve their communities."
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he plans to take a new look at the current overall limit on companies owning stations serving no more than 39 percent of U.S. television households.
Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn called the vote a "huge gift for large broadcasters with ambitious dreams of more consolidation." She said it "will have an immediate impact on the purchase and sale of television stations."
Meredith Corp spokesman Art Slusark said on Thursday the vote "may open up the opportunity for more acquisition opportunities ... We are always interested in adding quality properties to our broadcast portfolio."
Under rules adopted in 1985, stations with weaker over-the-air signals could be partially counted against a broadcaster's ownership cap. But last year, the FCC under Democratic President Barack Obama said those rules were outdated after the 2009 conversion to digital broadcasting, which eliminated the differences in station signal strength. It revoked the rule in September.
There is a dispute over whether the FCC has the authority to amend the 39 percent ownership limit.