News FCC Approves Deregulation of Ownership Rules
posted by December 18 at 12:14 PMon
Posted by news intern Brian Slodysko
The FCC today overturned rules governing media ownership, paving the way for consolidation of newspaper and broadcast ownership in the 20 largest markets in the United States
From the AP:
The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to overturn a 32-year-old ban and allow broadcasters in the nation’s 20 largest media markets to also own a newspaper.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was joined by his two Republican colleagues in favor of the proposal, while the commission’s two Democrats voted against it.
Martin pushed the vote through despite intense pressure from House and Senate members on Capitol Hill to delay it. The chairman, however, has the support of the White House, which has pledged to turn back any congressional action that seeks to undo the agency vote.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the chairman described the media ownership proceeding as “the most contentious and divisive issue” to come before him.
That proved true as the two Democrats in the commission blasted the proposal in unusually strong language for the normally sedate agency.
Martin, noting the steady decline in revenue for newspapers, said his proposal “strikes a balance” between the changing media marketplace and the need to protect diversity and competition.
The Democrats blasted the chairman for making changes to the proposal “in the dead of night” and just before the meeting that created new ownership loopholes instead of closing them, as he pledged during a recent hearing on Capitol Hill.
“Anybody who thinks our processes are open, thoughtful or deliberative should think twice in light of these nocturnal escapades,” said Democrat Jonathan Adelstein.
The new rules have been decried by Congress and citizens concerned about media consolidation. They’ve lambasted FCC Chairman Kevin Martin for trying to slip one past the goalie by holding a series of last-minute citizen input panels across the country, including one in Seattle. The two Democratic members of the FCC called the meetings mere formalities.
The Tribune Co., the Chicago Tribune’s parent company, has been one of the bigest proponents of the rule change. The Tribune Co. had an $8.2 billion buyout deal riding on the FCC’s decision—a buyout that would transfer the ownership of the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and 21 other daily newspapers and 11 broadcast stations to real estate tycoon Samuel Zell. The company’s existing cross-ownership of TV and newspapers was allowed because the cross-ownership predated rules barring such deals; the sale could not be completed until the rules were relaxed.