FCC Opens Notice Of Inquiry On Ownership Rules
May 25, 2010 at 12:48 PM (PT)
The FCC has issued a Notice of Inquiry asking for comments on its quadrennial review of media ownership rules.
Among the topics open for comment are whether the current rules continue to foster competition, localism, and diversity, how to define, measure, and promote those goals, and how to weigh them against each other if they conflict; whether and how to use "bright line" rules, case-by-case approaches, or a broad cross-media approach to media ownership if the current rules are deemed to no longer serve the public interest goals; the costs and benefits of outlet-specific rules, as compared to rules that apply to all media together; and the effect of the Commission's Broadband Plan on the review. Comments are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and reply comments are due 45 days after publication.
"We live in an ever-changing media world, but the core public interest goals are the same," said Chairman JULIUS GENACHOWSKI. "The Commission is committed to fostering a strong and independent broadcast media that provides Americans with multiple and diverse sources of news, public affairs, and entertainment programming. The input we seek in this proceeding will help ensure that our media ownership rules continue to protect consumer interests in today's marketplace."
Calling minority and female ownership levels "appalling," Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS said, "If a central tenet of our FCC mandate is to promote diversity in the media, which it is, then we need diverse ownership policies to help that happen. Anyone who actually thinks that who owns the media doesn't significantly affect how our country is being informed is not paying attention. Shortchanging ownership diversity is shortchanging our civic dialogue."
Voicing skepticism that the Commission needs to go through another NOI rather than just start off with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Commissioner ROBERT MCDOWELL said, "The Commission has known since at least the time of its 2002 ownership review that the Internet would have a profound effect on the media landscape, yet for various reasons the agency has been unable to fully adapt its regulations to the new realities. This time, I hope, we will get it right. Burdensome rules that have remained essentially intact for more than a decade should not be allowed to continue impeding, or potentially impeding, the ability of broadcasters and newspapers to survive and thrive in the digital era."
MCDOWELL added, "I am concerned... by the suggestion (in the NOI) that the Commission might attempt to use measures of 'civic engagement,' such as voter turnout data or citizen knowledge of government officials and issues, to evaluate the degree to which broadcasters in a particular market are fulfilling the agency's localism goal. The possibility of the government monitoring core protected speech should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cherishes liberty. I similarly question the possible focus on counting the number of journalists employed at broadcast stations. In a free society, the government has no business attempting to influence the Fourth Estate watchdogs of state action. The practice of journalism, a constitutionally recognized freedom, is better off without the 'help' of state intervention."