House Panel Hears Testimony On Media Ownership Rules
June 11, 2014 at 2:44 PM (PT)
Today's House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on the FCC's ownership limits included testimony from RBC CAPITAL MARKETS' DAVID BANK, the NEWSPAPER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA's PAUL BOYLE, the NATIONAL HISPANIC MEDIA COALITION's JESSICA J. GONZALEZ, FCC Media Bureau Chief WILLIAM LAKE, the NEWSPAPER GUILD-CWA's BERNARD LUNZER, and NAB EVP-General Counsel JANE MAGO.
The majority memo for the panel signaled a desire by the Republican members of the panel for regulatory changes, saying, "As broadcasters – and newspapers – face increasing competition for Americans’ attention, additional regulatory flexibility will permit them to increase efficiencies and compete against unregulated competitors. The Commission’s decades-old ownership rules simply have not kept up with changes in the media marketplace and are hampering traditional media’s ability to compete," further criticizing the Commission's "history on reforming its media ownership rules (as) rife with missteps and setbacks."
At the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman GREG WALDEN (R-OR) said that "pretending laws (that were) designed for an era before smartphones and the Internet will get the job done is an effective death sentence for many local media outlets," calling for the elimination of rules causing regulated broadcasters and newspaper owners to be "hamstrung" against unregulated competition. Rep. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA), who is retiring after the present term, and Rep. ANNA ESHOO (D-CA) both made the opposite argument, with WAXMAN supporting the retention of newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership prohibitions and ESHOO warning that further consolidation would not be desirable, and Rep. BOBBY RUSH (D-IL) complained that the Commission had not shown a commitment to increasing ownership diversity and had pulled the plug on the controversial newsroom study rather than revising it.
In his testimony, the FCC's LAKE said that the Commission had recently tentatively concluded that because about 30% of the public is without broadband access, ownership regulations should continue, but that if the figure pushes closer to 100% in the coming decade, "that might have tremendous implications" for the rules, he noted. And the NAB's MAGO told the panel, "The current broadcast ownership rules are simply out of touch with the reality of today's media marketplace. They distort competition. Cable, satellite and Internet-based media outlets – who operate without these cumbersome regulations – continue to proliferate and take both audience share and advertising revenues." She added that "the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule is another rule that relies on assumptions of a media landscape from a bygone era" and called for the Commission to revise the ownership rules to "keep pace with market changes" and look at the rules "based on real evidence, not speculation."