The FCC released its proposed update of media ownership rules Thursday 12/22/11, and to Paul Boyle, SVP/Public Policy at the Newspaper Association of America, it was reminiscent of the fruitcake that makes the rounds from one holiday season to another – NAA has seen this one before.
The proposal put forth by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in 2011 is almost identical to the proposal put forth by former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin late in 2007.
Boyle told RBR-TVBR that it is unfortunate that the FCC has apparently failed to notice that in the interim the competitive situation facing both local broadcast and newspapers has only become fiercer.
“We hope through the process that the FCC will recognize the changes and consider further deregulatory efforts that recalibrate the 36-year old rule to reflect the current media marketplace.”
The new FCC proposal echoes the Martin proposal in that it does away with the cross-ownership ban in the top 20 DMAs. NAA believes the relaxation of cross-ownership must go much deeper than that.
Boyle said there are a number of reasons that broadcast/print combinations should be encouraged rather than banned at this point in the history of media: it’s about attracting investment capital; it’s about better competing with new media for advertising dollars; and ultimately and most importantly, it’s about investing in quality local journalism.
RBR-TVBR observation: It’s not like companies are tripping over themselves trying to merge a TV or radio station or two with a local newspaper. In an environment where newspapers are downsizing, sometimes to the point of non-existence, any media company that is willing to take the plunge to keep local journalism alive should be awarded a medal.
More and more frequently, the choice isn’t between whether two, four, six or more reporters are covering the same city council meeting – the choice is between whether there will be one reporter or none.
We applaud the concept of different owners and different editorial voices providing quality local journalism in a given market. But in the current media environment, the advertising revenue just isn’t there to support the old model – it’s time for the FCC to adjust.