Cross-Ownership: The Blowback Begins
December 19, 2007 at 5:55 AM (PT)
As expected, THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION's decision to overturn a 32-year-old ban and allow broadcasters in the 20 biggest media markets to also own a newspaper elicited a storm of criticism from those who oppose any deregulation, and support from those who do.
On the negative side, first and foremost, were the two Democratic Commissioners, MICHAEL COPPS and JONATHAN ADELSTEIN. The usually combative COPPS was typically derisive, calling the vote a "terrible decision ... In the final analysis, the real winners today are businesses that are in many cases quite healthy, and the real losers are going to be all of us who depend on the news media to learn what's happening in our communities and to keep an eye on local government."
Anybody who thinks our processes are open, thoughtful or deliberative should think twice in light of these nocturnal escapades
Noting that the revisions would "allow for waivers for six new newspaper-broadcast combinations and 36 grandfathered stations," ADELSTEIN asserted, "Anybody who thinks our processes are open, thoughtful or deliberative should think twice in light of these nocturnal escapades."
Now there's a novel way to describe who's getting screwed in the deal -- at least in his opinion.
Joining that chorus of criticism were 25 Congressman, who have already pledged to do what they can overturn the decision.Apparently, this might even become an election issue, as BARACK OBAMA declared, "Today the FCC failed to further the important goal of promoting diversity in the media and instead chose to put big corporate interests ahead of the peoples' interests."
Defending The Vote
Naturally, the three FCC Republican Commissioners who voted for the revisions took exception to those charges. Chairman KEVIN MARTIN reasoned that the new rules could prevent newspapers from continued decline. Commissioner ROBERT MCDOWELL denied the proposal was "pockmarked with loopholes" and cited the explosion of new media as legitimate and alternative competition. DEBORAH TAYLOR TATE defended the process as "transparent and thorough" describing the changes as narrow, and intimating that she would favor even more deregulation.
Backing them up was the BUSH Administration. As reported here yesterday (NET NEWS 12/18), Commerce Secretary CARLOS GUTIERREZ wrote various Congress officials that they're fully behind the revisions.
Also in their corner was the NAB. "We are pleased the FCC has adopted a revised newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule, recognizing that a 30-year-old complete ban is no longer justified," the statement read. "While we think the adopted changes are modest, we believe they are an important step forward in aligning broadcasting regulations with the realities of today's communications marketplace."
While the justifications and the repercussions of the vote is debatable, one thing is for certain: We certainly haven't heard the last of this. Expect to see this FCC ruling wind up in the courts. Again.