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FCC Sneaks a Tweak To Media Ownership Rules

While everyone was on vacation, or thinking about vacation, the FCC quietly (re)proposed some anti-consumer changes to local media rules that will reduce the diversity of news for most of the country. Fox News already got a special exception in New York City, now the FCC wants this model to expand elsewhere. The corporate lackeys at the FCC tried this once before, in 2007, remember?

WCIU-TV 26

While everyone was on vacation, or thinking about vacation, the FCC quietly (re)proposed some anti-consumer changes to local media rules that will reduce the diversity of news for most of the country. Fox News already got a special exception in New York City, now the FCC wants this model to expand elsewhere. The corporate lackeys at the FCC tried this once before, in 2007, remember?

Anyway:

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to relax a longstanding rule that limits the ability of companies to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same local market.

The proposal, which was challenged in court the last time it came up, was the most contentious piece of an updating of the nation’s media ownership rules. Congress requires the F.C.C. to review the rules every four years.

Public interest groups and a departing member of the commission, Michael J. Copps, expressed concerns that the newspaper-broadcast rule change could cause more consolidation in the media industry, in which round after round of stations have been sold to bigger companies.

“In the vast majority of cases, I do not believe that newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership advances the public interest,” Mr. Copps, a Democrat, said in a statement. “It means fewer voices in the community, less localism in the industry and steep transactional costs that all too often lead to down-sized or shuttered newsrooms and fired journalists. Our media, and our public policy, need to head in a different direction.”

(click here to continue reading F.C.C. Seeks to Ease Media Ownership Rule – NYTimes.com.)

Adweek adds:

The proposed rules would keep in place the loosening of the ban on cross-ownership proposed by former Chairman Kevin Martin, allowing companies to own both a newspaper and TV station in the top 20 markets. The proposal would essentially codify newspaper-TV combos held by companies such as Tribune and News Corp. The FCC is proposing no change to the current TV duopoly rules, which permit companies to own only two stations in a market as long as both stations are among the top four, or the radio ownership rules.

Public interest groups, which have challenged loosening the ban on cross ownership in court came out swinging. “It appears that the FCC is proposing to adopt the same loophole-ridden scheme that the Bush Administration FCC had tried to push through. The public understands that excessive concentration of media ownership is bad for democracy, so we expect to convince the FCC to take a stronger position in the end,” said Andy Schwartzman, svp, Media Access Project.

(click here to continue reading FCC Tweaks Media Ownership Rules | Adweek.)

Nesting Instinct Prevails
Nesting Instinct Prevails

Some other dissenters include FreePress (a/k/a savethenews.org):

Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“The FCC must be having a Yogi Berra moment, because it’s déjà vu all over again on the failed policies of the previous administration. Those policies were resoundingly rejected by the public, Congress and the courts. The FCC should focus on remedying the mistakes of past administrations — not repeating them.

“This action not only flies in the face of promises made by the president on the campaign trail but will also make it much harder for local and diverse owners to secure a piece of the public airwaves. Instead, the already dwindling number of smaller and independent media owners will be swallowed up by the same media giants that have crushed local journalism, killed local radio and left us with the same cookie-cutter content from coast to coast.

“Especially appalling is the FCC’s failure — once again — to meaningfully address the issue of ownership diversity. A federal court has twice rebuked the FCC for failing to consider rules that would increase ownership opportunities for women and people of color, yet today’s item punts on the issue yet again. The evidence shows that media consolidation hinders opportunities for women and people of color to create and sustain broadcast businesses. If the FCC is serious about addressing the diversity problem, it needs to tighten its rules, not relax them.

“However, we do commend the FCC for raising the important issue of covert consolidation. The FCC must address the proliferation of secret deals to combine local newsroom operations in violation of the agency’s rules. Some broadcasters now control two, three or even four stations in one market, giving a handful of companies extraordinary influence over local debates, issues and news. Now is the time for the FCC to close the legal loopholes and rein in these so-called shared services agreements. Otherwise broadcasters will continue to undermine competition, destroy news diversity and cut jobs in local communities.

“Fortunately, the rules proposed today are not final. The FCC can still reverse course, reject the disastrous approach of its predecessors and refocus on policies that will benefit the public instead of just boosting the bottom line of a few giant media conglomerates.”

(click here to continue reading FCC Ignores Public by Pushing Failed Ownership Policies | Save the News.)

If you have any post-holiday cash left, the good folks at Free Press are soliciting donations…

Television stations make a ton of money, and if this change goes through, in five years, most cities in America will have just one newspaper that parrots the corporate behemoth that owns it. Sort of like what already exists, but with fewer parent companies, and thus less diversity of opinion. And then in twenty more years, the corporate media giants will merge, and most people will get all of their news from Rupert Murdoch’s cloned head…

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