Don’t let Tribune catch a waive


That's what the Media Access Project is arguing. If Sam Zell wants to buy the Tribune Company, MAP argues, then its five cross-ownership operations involving television stations, major daily newspapers and one legendary AM radio station should be broken up.

MAP, led by Andy Schwartzman, has been fighting such pairings steadily in recent years. The clusters involved are in Los Angeles, New York, Hartford, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and in Trib's home city of Chicago, where its Chicago Tribune is sister to WGN-TV and WGN-AM. Schwartzman wrote to the FCC, "The underlying concern is that media concentration is bad for the public and diversification of media promotes democracy. Tribune seems to think that one set of rules should apply to it and another set of rules should apply to everybody else. The FCC's rules clearly contemplate divestiture of this cross-ownership whenever a sale takes place."

SmartMedia observation: We believe that MAP has protested just about every grandfathered broadcast/newspaper pairing in existence when it came time for broadcast license renewal during the past few years. We don't believe it has scored any victories yet, and it shouldn't, since the legality of such pairings is pending the FCC's review of a court remand in which the judges noted that oftentimes such pairings have public benefits. The challenge for the FCC is not so much to justify these pairings as it is to justify a local cap system. Maybe the Commission will fail at that, or maybe Congress will step in one way or the other and make it a matter of legislation. But it is simply unfair to force a fire sale based on a proceeding that is being ping-ponged from one branch of the government to another, through no fault of the licensee.