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To mitigate the harmful effects of TV industry consolidation — and perhaps soften opposition to future attempts to relax limits on media mergers — FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is pushing to let television stations lease their excess digital channel capacity to independent broadcasters.

As part of the switch to all-digital broadcasting, stations have gained the ability to offer five or more channels simultaneously, using the same amount of spectrum to which they have devoted a single analog channel since the dawn of the business more than 70 years ago.

By leasing a digital channel from an established broadcaster, an independent programmer could have access to the airwaves without raising the millions needed to launch a stand-alone TV station or go through the headache of finding a scarce available channel.

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