FCC OKs Cross-Ownership As GAO Report Released Early
December 18, 2007 at 10:02 AM (PT)
As expected, the FCC approved the much-debated revision that would allow media conglomerates that own a radio or TV station to also own a newspaper in the same top-20 market. The vote went down party lines; the three Republican Commissioners voted for it, the two Democratic Commissioners voted against it.
The vote comes in spite of a GAO report released a year early by HOUSE TELECOMMUNICATIONS & INTERNET SUBCOMMITTEE chairman ED MARKEY (D-MA.). The GAO interviewed industry members and government policymakers and did case studies in 16 markets to reach its conclusions. According to BROADCASTING & CABLE, the study offers support for both pro- and anti-deregulation camps. For instance, one conclusion was that "reliable data on ownership by minorities and women are lacking," but that such ownership is "limited."
It also determined that programming-sharing agreements between stations distorts the validity of measuring how many independently produced shows there are. Of course, expect media reps from both sides to draw conclusions that support their respective views.
To counter any perceived ill effects of cross-ownership and to encourage minority ownership, Chairman KEVIN MARTIN has already proposed several diversity initiatives, such as the tax-certificate policy, and proposed boosting localism by requiring broadcasters to offer more comprehensive and detailed reports on how much local news and other programming they are doing.
Dubyah's Got Martin's Back
Also just made public is a DEC. 4th letter from Commerce Secretary CARLOS GUTIERREZ to the leaders of the SENATE and its COMMERCE COMMITTEE, which indicate that the BUSH administration supports MARTIN's effort to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban. B&C quotes a letter to SENATE Majority Leader HARRY REID (D-NV), that notes the administration's opposition to "S. 2332 or any other attempt to delay or overturn these revised rules by legislative means."
That's a fairly predictable response to the bill by co-sponsors Sens. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND) and TRENT LOTT (R-MS) that would have requiring at least a 90-day comment period on MARTIN's proposal before allowing the FCC to vote on media-ownership changes. It also presumably applies to Sens. JOHN KERRY (D-MA) and BARACK OBAMA (D-IL) proposal to introduce a bill to defund the deregulatory move.