FCC Chief Aims To Relax Media Ownership Ban
November 13, 2007 at 4:10 PM (PT)
As expected, FCC Chairman KEVIN MARTIN said TODAY the agency should relax its ban on the cross-ownership of newspapers in the biggest U.S. cities and allow them to buy a broadcast television or radio station in the same market.
In a column published in the NEW YORK TIMES, MARTIN said that his proposal to ease the ownership rules would require each part of a combined entity to maintain its editorial independence.
"A company that owns a newspaper in one of the 20 largest cities in the country should be permitted to purchase a broadcast TV or radio station in the same market," MARTIN wrote. "But a newspaper should be prohibited from buying one of the top-four TV stations in its community."
A company that owns a newspaper in one of the 20 largest cities in the country should be permitted to purchase a broadcast TV or radio station in the same market ...But a newspaper should be prohibited from buying one of the top four TV stations in its co
MARTIN's plan would, for example, require TRIBUNE BROADCASTING to divest itself of either WGN-TV or WGN-A/CHICAGO.
MARTIN also said that "this relatively minor loosening of the ban" on cross-ownership would strike a balance between protecting the quality of local news coverage while preventing too much concentration of ownership.
MARTIN recently said he wants the agency to wrap up its examination of media ownership and reach a decision by DECEMBER 18th on whether to ease limits on how many media outlets a company may own in a single market.
However, two senators have threatened to introduce bipartisan legislation that would impose a 90-day delay on any FCC decision to ease media ownership rules. The bill planned by Sens. BYRON DORGAN, a NORTH DAKOTA Democrat, and TRENT LOTT, a MISSISSIPPI Republican, would require the FCC to study the issue for at least 90 more days.
Read the full FCC release here.
Copps, Adelstein Rip Martin Again
Late TUESDAY, Commissioners MICHAEL COPPS and JONATHAN ADELSTEIN criticized MARTIN's proposal, saying, "This is portrayed as a moderate proposal, but it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Don’t let the wool be pulled over your eyes. The proposal could repeal the ban in every market in America, not just the top twenty. Any city, no matter how small, could be subjected to newspaper broadcast ownership combinations under a very loose standard." The commissioners alleged that the top 20 markets affected by the crossownership proposal "account for over 43% of U.S. households. Even on its face, this proposal directly affects over 120 million Americans." They added that MARTIN is creating "a loophole that Big Media will drive a truck through, permitting a newspaper-broadcast combination in any market in the country. We have seen how loosely the Commission has granted waivers in the past."
Calling MARTIN's proposal "clearly not ready for prime time," COPPS and ADELSTEIN called the 19 working days for public comment "grossly insufficient" and called for a 90 day comment period, noting that the localism proceeding remains incomplete. "There is still time to do this the right way," COPPS and ADELSTEIN said, alleging that MARTIN's move was "designed to make sure that the Chairman can deliver a generous gift to Big Media before the holidays. For the rest of us: a lump of coal." Regarding the TRIBUNE deal and the need for waivers to let the sale to SAM ZELL close, COPPS and ADELSTEIN alleged that MARTIN "has refused to act on TRIBUNE's waiver requests that would permit the transaction to close. Let us be clear: it is improper to hold the TRIBUNE hostage in order to force a vote on media ownership before the end of the year. We are prepared to vote on the TRIBUNE waiver requests within three working days after the Chairman circulates a draft decision. There is simply no excuse for using TRIBUNE as a human shield."