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FCC Proposal to Loosen Cross-Ownership Restrictions

December 18, 2007

FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin has made a controversial proposal on November 9, 2007 to loosen media ownership restrictions by allowing, under certain conditions, the ownership of either a television or radio station by a newspaper company in 20 of the major U.S. markets. Current FCC rules ban the ownership of a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same city by the same company, unless the company has been granted a waiver by the FCC. Many are critical of the move, suggesting that it will be harmful to media diversity. (More after the jump.)

Noted broadcast attorney Davis Wright Tremaine provides a summary of several specific considerations that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals requested the FCC give further consideration to following their review of the FCC’s July 2003 Multiple Ownership Order. The considerations raised include the methodologies used by the FCC to determine in which markets cross-ownership could occur, and whether or not a reliance solely on numerical limits was sufficient for determining ownership restrictions in a regulatory context. The Newspaper Association of America, the largest trade group of U.S. Newspapers, provides a number of papers that the group has submitted to the FCC in support of loosening cross-broadcasting restrictions, arguing that newspaper companies would benefit from the added revenue which would result from station ownership. Stop Big Media, a public interest group concerned with media consolidation, examines the ways in which Martin’s proposal is incompatible with the best interests of the public. PBS’ NewsHour recently presented a story on the proposal, which featured an in-depth discussion of many of the concerns that the proposal has raised. UPDATE: Looks like the proposal has become a reality.