When the Same Guy Owns Channels 4 and 5...

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Just what we needed -– more network television. Hacking away some regulatory tangles that dated back to television’s infancy, the FCC decided Thursday to permit a single company or network to own more than one station in a given market. In those media markets with sufficient "media voices" -– at least eight individually owned TV outlets and a nice mix of cable, newspapers and radio –- the remaining stations are up for grabs. Meaning a network giant like Fox can now have another channel for all those "Cops" reruns that we’ve been dying to see.

The country’s top 50 cities all pass the "voice" test, but the scramble to expand is likely to be most feverish in major sports markets like New York, L.A. and Chicago –- sports is a particularly cost-effective way to fill airtime. Or conglomerates with big movie libraries may decide that a mix of film and reruns may be the way to go. But who gets bought? One guy with plenty of prime real estate is Lowell Paxson, whose fledgling family-based Pax network has stations in 43 of the top 50 markets but isn’t now passing bottom-line muster. "If we’re going into the duopoly game, we’re the prettiest girl at the duop dance," he told the New York Times. If the price is right, it probably means goodbye "Little House on the Prairie" and hello, WWF Wrestling. Just in case the cable’s out.