FCC action draws ample, mostly negative, commentary


"We’re not done with this, not by a long shot," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) in comments about the FCC vote relaxing cross-ownership rules in the top 20 markets. Dorgan has a bipartisan posse representing over a quarter of the Senate ready to take action to nullify the FCC’s 3-2 party-line vote. Meanwhile, the NAB praised the same move, but expressed serious doubts about the FCC’s proposals to promote localism. Like Dorgan, the NAB promises a serious review of the measures passed through the Commission.

So far, there have been few ringing endorsements of the FCC actions. One came from Interep’s Sherman Kizart, who was very pleased by the broadside fired by the Commissioners at no-Urban and no-Spanish dictates. And over at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, they were very happy to finally have a serious action aimed at their particular goals, although they were not happy with the definition of the businesses which would benefit from the FCC’s action.

The Newspaper Association of America was pleased with the top-20 rule relaxation but felt it didn’t go far enough. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association felt it dodged the a la carte bullet but is generally upset about the regulatory attention it’s getting from FCC chairman Kevin Martin. And labor unions, other watchdogs and other Democrats in Congress were highly displeased with much of the action.

We will provide statements under the click for those interested in checking them out. Today, NAB, Dorgan, Dingell, Interep, MMTC & CWA.


* National Association of Broadcasters Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton: We are pleased the FCC has adopted a revised newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule, recognizing that a 30-year-old complete ban is no longer justified. While we think the adopted changes are modest, we believe they are an important step forward in aligning broadcasting regulations with the realities of today’s communications marketplace. We will also be reviewing closely the FCC’s ‘localism’ proposal, a proceeding that carries grave First Amendment implications and which stems from a false notion that radio and television stations have abandoned our commitment to serving communities or have stopped offering distinctive local programming. From coast to coast, local broadcasters are saving lives every day with Amber Alerts, emergency weather warnings, and coverage of natural disasters. The record shows that broadcasters have an unmatched tradition of serving the public interest, and as the FCC found in the 1980s, onerous regulations can have the unintended consequence of reducing programming quality. We are confident that any truly objective localism analysis will vindicate the performance of radio and TV broadcasters, and overshadow the shrill voices of those who would regulate broadcasters back to the 1960s."


* Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND): The FCC’s vote was needlessly rushed and based on inadequate information. The votes cast by Chairman Martin, and Commissioners Tate and McDowell shortchanged the American people’s right to be involved in the discussion of the rules that will govern who owns the media we all depend on for news and information. We’ve got a lot of people, from both parties, as well as millions of American citizens saying hold on a minute here. Don’t do this. Instead, the FCC is rushing to do the bidding of big corporations at the expense of the public interest. We’re not done with this, not by a long shot.


* Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI): Despite specific bipartisan and bicameral opposition, the Federal Communications Commission acted arrogantly and brazenly today to weaken the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban. While the Commission did tighten some loopholes in the rule, I am greatly displeased that the Chairman chose to vote on this important issue a mere week after hundreds of pages of comment were submitted on his proposed rule. I question whether the Commission gave adequate, or any, consideration to the public’s input. I am also deeply dismayed that the Commission granted dozens of waivers of the new rule without any opportunity for public comment. The Commission has squandered an opportunity to reach agreement on even more meaningful ways to provide concrete benefits to consumers in the form of more minority media ownership and attention to localism. The FCC is a creature of Congress, and these matters will be the subject of rigorous oversight by the Committee on Energy and Commerce."


* David Honig, Executive Director, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council: By adopting 12 minority ownership proposals and putting 13 more proposals out for comment, the FCC marked December 18, 2007 — coincidentally MMTC’s 21st birthday — as one of the best days in the history of minority media ownership. The day was marred only by the FCC’s use of a poorly defined "small business" eligibility criterion for three of the proposals it adopted. Apparently only about 8.5% of small business-owned commercial radio stations are minority owned — barely more than the 7.8% of all commercial radio stations that are minority owned. MMTC will act promptly to secure a correction of the FCC’s unfortunate mistake. The FCC’s minority ownership decision was taken separately from its decision to relax its broadcast-newspaper crossownership rule, and is not contingent on the crossownership decision. Although the broadcasting industry is 98 years old and uses billions of dollars worth of publicly owned spectrum, minorities own only 8% of the nation’s full power commercial radio stations and 3% of the full power commercial television stations. All of the FCC’s remedial initiatives have been repealed or fallen into disuse.


* Sherman Kizart, SVP Urban Marketing, Interep,  on no-Urban dictates: This is tremendously important because it sheds light on the issue. Many people believe that no Urban dictates and no Hispanic dictates are a thing of the past, but they most definitely are not. In fact, they cost Urban and Hispanic stations millions of dollars a year in ad revenue. By shining a bright light on the subject, the FCC is acknowledging that the problem still exists. Hopefully, this edict will be the beginning of the final chapter for no Urban dictates and no Hispanic dictates.


* John Clark, president of NABET-CWA: Our members know what happens when one company owns more than one TV station or a major TV station and the monopoly newspaper in the same market. The owner merges operations, slashes jobs, and reduces the quantity and quality of the news.