Rethinking Crossownership


It may be too late to help, but FCC Acting Chairman Michael Copps is having second thoughts about his staunch opposition to loosening the crossownership rule. He told the Bloomberg news service that the Commission needs to revisit the issue of combining broadcast and newspaper ownership in a market in light of the economic problems facing daily newspapers.

It marks a major reversal for the Democrat, who was on the losing end of a 3-2 party line vote when former Chair brought a plan granting limited opportunities for local broadcast/print combos. Martin’s plan would allow them in the top 20 DMAs. Copps objected based partly on anti-consolidation principles and because the top 20 DMAs contain a significant percentage of the US population.

With the economy damaging the broadcasting business in general and putting many newspapers in dire straits, Copps believes that it is time to rethink the concept.

RBR/ TVBR observation: In the famed Prometheus court decision, the justices actually noted that oftentimes cross-owned companies provide the best news operation. Some watchdogs point out that this is true because the combo is able to use the cross-media powerhouse to force the competition into offering only token resistance or to get out of news entirely. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that broadcast and print operations are different enough that it is not necessarily all that easy to find enough operational efficiencies to make combining them worthwhile. So for a lot of reasons, this will make for an interesting line of inquiry at the FCC.