That said, the public-interest arguments against cross-ownership are winning, and incumbent politicians have little incentive to push for change, since they're hardly eager to be beholden to a dominant media owner in their district. While no one was happy with Martin's attempt at a compromise, it's clear that his proposal was as far as Washington is willing to go.

Belo ( BLC), which announced a plan to split its newspaper assets away from its TV assets in early October, has seen little benefit from the decision. It closed at $16.38 -- down 4.9% from where it closed before it announced the restructuring.

That could be explained away by recent selling in the broader stock market, except that Scripps ( SSP), which announced in mid-October it will divest its fast-growing cable networks but keep its local newspaper and TV assets together, is trading up 5.5% since the announcement.

"We've been waiting for cross-ownership rules to change," says Gabelli's Lucas. "They haven't and this latest go-round doesn't make it look particularly more likely."