The official rules are out on the 12/18/07 FCC move opening the top 20 DMAs to broadcast/newspaper cross-owned combinations. Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein now wonder what the rush was back then, if it took a month and a half to get the document ready for unveiling. They are even more concerned about the actual height of the high hurdles affecting markets where the cross-ownership ban is still in place.
They cite their warning that the measure is "so vague and chock-full of loopholes" that any proposed cross-owned pairing, anywhere, could be approved. They note that in Paragraph 68 of the Order the majority trumpeted the "high hurdle" built into the rule. "We remain skeptical," they commented. "Anyone looking to gauge how high this hurdle is likely to be need only flip to paragraph 77, where the majority casually grants five permanent waivers to newspaper-broadcast combinations that would not qualify for the public interest presumption involving top-20 markets and non-top-four TV stations under the new rule."
"The alacrity with which the majority grants these permanent waivers is breathtaking." They remind that they didn’t know about the waivers until 9:44PM the night before the vote — up until that point Copps and Adelstein thought the combos were to face the high hurdle.
RBR/TVBR observation: Forces in the watchdog community are threatening legal action and forces on Capitol Hill are threatening legislative action. We haven’t seen anything yet, but it’s early in the second session of the 110th Congress. It is highly doubtful that this proceeding is even close to being over.